The sub title for this exhibition, “Seeking the Spiritual Self in Community Relationships”  encapsulates the arts practice of Flossie Peitsch. Her work continues to explore ways in which the spiritual shapes and is shaped by individual and community development. In doing this, Flossie seeks to explicate especially the influences of family and of the broader community.  It has been my pleasure to work with Flossie over many years in the preparation of her PhD thesis and exhibition, “The Immortal Now: Visualizing the Place Where Spirituality and Today’s Families Meet” (2006) and her book, “Art and Soul” in the same year and more recently in various projects.    

Bed, Breakfast and Belief

Drawing from the family and community base, various diverse projects have focussed around Caroline Chisholm’s work in the nineteenth century with the women and families travelling to the goldfields in Victoria and have included as well arts activities with the Sudanese Australian Integrated Learning (SAIL) Project in the western suburbs of Melbourne (  Significantly, there are links in such activities between Flossie’s and Caroline Chisholm’s experiences as immigrants and as mothers of large families and in the SAIL Project, again with recent immigrants and refugees, many from fractured and reconstructing families.   

In her work, Flossie tangles with these multiple themes of family and spirituality, combined with her being a daughter, wife, mother, immigrant and teacher. There is complementarity within these various influences, but also considerable space for conflict. Both of these are played out as part of Flossie’s movement back and forth between fine arts and community arts.  Flossie demonstrates propensity to gather and reshape ideas and materials in ways that are inherently creative.  Recurring themes around home and family are addressed through the use of materials including wood, found objects and Styrofoam. Techniques extend from embroidery and knitting, traditional cottage crafts through to digital composition and soundscape. In this way Flossie builds and deconstructs the familiar, the new and the old. As such, she illuminates aspects of the basic “Bed, Breakfast” and of the more profound, “Belief”. Flossie’s work is defined by the multiple narratives of her life and tells stories of her successive and intertwined community roles and life stages which have been shaped by the influences of immigration and spirituality. Even more, the installation orientation of Flossie’s work brings it close to the architectural which in turn links so closely with the structures of the family home and of the church. In their most positive forms these structures in themselves portray and create beauty and generate happiness.  As well, they represent and encourage inquiry into the everyday environment of spirituality, family, relocation, relationships and the emergence of self.   

The work includes routines such as doing the laundry, eating food and the related equipment of tables, chairs, beds and cots and homemade garments, aprons, scarves and more. With art pieces ranging across scarves, tables for shared meals, babies’ cots and alphabet houses, Flossie’s work conveys ideas of union and dislocation, harmony and discord and personal and shared histories. They are at the same time separate and linked, comfortable and puzzling.  Recognizable materials are transformed – handmade and homemade, simple and stylized – both reflect individual struggle and family and community relationships. 

The elements are accessible, thought provoking and engaging. Flossie’s work makes her own life accessible to others and is highly appealing.  Importantly in the context of this exhibition, Bed, Breakfast & Belief: Seeking The Spiritual Self In Community Relationship, it encourages questions around the various descriptors below of art: Art to build and rebuild community, Art to release creative energy, Art to transform, Art to share common beliefs, Art to question, Art for diversity, Art for narrative,  Art as symbolism, Art as decoration, Art for intuitive understanding, Art to evoke understanding, Art for its own sake, Art to tell stories, Art to communicate, Art as skill, Art as aesthetic appeal, Art as creative impulse, Art as utilitarian, Art as unique…….   

Professor Maureen RyanSchool of Education, Victoria University This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  Director, Gallery Sunshine Everywhere This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it