Minnie Pwerle was born in the Utopia region in approximately 1910. Her country is Atnwengerrp and her language is Anmatyerre and Alyawarr.
Minnie has five sisters, Margie, Molly, Emily, Lois, and Ally and one brother called Louis (her other brother is now deceased) and seven children including Eileen, Betty, June, Dora, Raymond, and Barbara Weir. Barbara is also a well-known Aboriginal artist from Utopia. Now a widow, Minnie lives in Utopia at the Arlparra store with some of her children. She occasionally visits Adelaide to visit her daughter, Barbara, and her grandson, Fred Torres.
Minnie began painting in earnest recently at the Utopia Communities's workshops where she completed a series of linear paintings in September/October 1999. These works are bold and free-flowing and immediately captured the attention of art lovers.
The artist’s main Dreamings* are "Awelye-Atnwengerrp" (Womens Dreaming), "Bush Melon", and "Bush Melon Seed". These convey her love and respect for the land and the food it provides to the people.
"Awelye-Atnwengerrp" is depicted by a series of lines painted in different widths and colours. This pattern represents the lines painted on the top half of the women's bodies during ceremonies in their country of Atnwengerrp.
"Bush Melon" is depicted using a linear design of curves, circles, and breast designs in different colours creating a very loose and bold design, while "Bush Melon Seed" is big and small patches of colour strewn across the canvas. Both these Dreamings tell the story of this lovely sweet food that comes from a very small bush and is only found in Atnwengerrp. Once very abundant and fruiting in the summer season, the bush melon is now very hard to find. Minnie and the other women used to collect this fruit (which was green in colour and ripened to a brown colour) and scrape out the small black seeds. They would then eat the fruit immediately or cut it into small pieces - which were skewered and dried ready to be eaten in the coming months when bush tucker was scarce.
Minnie Pwerle’s new work is a balance between modernism, impressionism, contemporary theory and aboriginality. She paints a rich expressionistic story of her own ‘secret sacred dreamings’.
Her quick brush strokes are reminiscent of Emily Knwarreye’s mid 1990’s “wild Yam Stories” & her layering is reminiscent of Ian Fairweather’s mid 1960’s art work of “Lightning & Thunder Stories” -of Queensland’s tropical rain storms.
Pwerle's work presents a harmonious structural artwork for us to understand. The viewer (Indigenous or Non-Indigenous) can share, make comparisons, make conclusions & relate to the art as a cultural form - as well as a piece of abstract expressionistic art.
Through the use of acrylic the viewer can make these parallels by identifying Indigenous symbolism and Non-Indigenous art of the impressionists & modernists.
Minnie’s art promotes reconciliation by uniting harmonious and historical visual styles whilst still protecting her Utopian dreaming story.
2000 – "Minnie Pwerle" Sydney
"Minnie Pwerle" Melbourne
"Minnie Pwerle" Alice Springs
September 2000 – DACOU in association with AMP hosted an exhibition of various Utopia artists in the AMP building, Sydney.
February 2001 – ‘Out of Utopia’ Canberra. Exhibited with Barbara Weir.
Included in group exhibition in San Anselmo, Marin County California, USA.
April 2001- ‘Minnie Pwerle, Mary Pantjiti McLean- Tumaru Purlykumunu, Japingka Gallery, Perth WA.
May 2001 – ‘Desert Colour - My Country’, combined exhibition, Darwin NT.
‘Painting Country’, combined exhibition, Tandanya, Adelaide.
June 2001 – Combined exhibition, Santa Fey, New Mexico USA.
July 2001 – ‘Women Artists of the Australian Desert’, combined exhibition, Auckland, New Zealand.
February 2003- "Minnie Pwerle" Original & Authentic Aboriginal Art, Melbourne
August 2003 – Alice Springs.
April, 2004 Minnie Pwerle & Mitjili Napurrula – Japingka Gallery, Perth