Destiny Deacon

Adoption, 1993-2003
Light jet print from Polaroid original
, Number 5 from an edition of 15 + 2 A/Ps
100.0 x 100.0 cm


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Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney 
Private collection, Sydney 

This bluntly titled photograph is a document of black, plastic-toy babies presented on a tray by the artist, and printed to a scale that, as if a chocolate crackle, tempts a hand to reach in and pluck one from its paper casing.

It is an unforgettable and uncompromising image from Deacon, who has long used dolls to make her political pictures. They give the perfect mix of insouciance and gravity: essential ingredients in her delivery of devastatingly kitsch humour.

Hannah Fink elaborated in her seminal text on contemporary Indigenous art:
‘Her home-grown theatre of the absurd stars members from her copious collection of Aboriginal kitsch, battered thrift shop effigies that carry the burden of the grotesque incongruity between real and imagined Indigeneity. There is nothing vicarious about Indigenous suffering, however, and beneath the jest is the living hurt of a history of poverty and contempt.’ (Hannah Fink in 'Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia', Sydney, 2004)

  • Adoption

Image courtesy of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and the artist

View artist profile

Destiny Deacon is a KuKu (Far North Queensland) and Erub/Mer (Torres Strait) artist. Born in Maryborough, Queensland in 1957, Deacon is a photo artist, video maker, performer, writer and broadcaster who stimulates ideas about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander politics. Her work references racial stereotypes in art and popular culture, as well as suburban and childhood objects and imagery to bring to light the demeaning, bizarre and racist depictions of Indigenous Australians in film and televsion, black children's dolls and in kitsch decorative objects. Deacon once said of her images that "I like to think there is a laugh and a tear in each picture", a sentiment that captures perfectly the competing senses of innocence and tragedy that underlie her artworks and ideas.

After working alongside Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins as one of his "Angels", Deacon began working as a photographer with her first solo exhibition, Caste Offs, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney (1993). Since then, she established her place as a major Australian artist domestically and further afield, showing at the prestigious Documenta 11, Hatje Cantz, Germany and major festivals and biennales in Yokohama, Japan (2002); Johannesburg, South Africa (1995) and Havana, Cuba (1994). As much a cultural figure as an artist, she is credited with introducing the term "Blak" to describe Indigenous Australian art and culture.

In 2020, Deacon received the largest exhibition of her work to date, DESTINY, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, which looked back on three decades of photography, installations and other works. Her 2004 major survey, Walk & don't look blak, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, toured to the Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Tokyo, the Tjibao Cultural Centre, Noumea, New Caledonia and Wellington City Gallery, New Zealand.