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Gilgai Wetlands: Gilgai – echo of an ideal world’

An exhibition by Vicki Luke

Authors: Lucy Stuart and Andy Lowes

Every now and then, art and science come together to create magic, and that’s exactly what happened when artist Vicki Luke worked with scientists in the Murray-Darling Basin to share the story of Gilgai wetlands and the Sloane’s froglet in her artwork: Gilgai – echo of an ideal world.  

Gilgai (pronounced gill-guy) wetlands are highly productive ephemeral wetlands characterised by cracking clays which build up towards the wetland edges. The cracking clays, combined with narrow native grasses, provide the perfect habitat for a range of species including the endangered Sloane’s froglet. 

Sloane's froglet. Source: Vicki Luke.

Vicki felt a strong connection to the small grey froglet dwelling by her home in Albury. She was captured by their song and felt compelled to share their unique, unassuming beauty with the rest of the world.  

Across 21 pieces of art using mixed media, Vicki has captured the potential for life held by these wetlands and reflected an idealised view of the ecosystem.  

Her work speaks to the fragility and balance of natural ecosystems, while also highlighting their changing trajectories in the face of climate change; reminding us what we need to protect.  

She is drawn to the subtleness of our river systems and the large myriad of species they support, both big and small. Much like these rich wetland systems, the longer you view Vicki’s artworks, the more things become apparent.  

Short necked turtle. Source: Vicki Luke

“Although not always obvious, there is beauty in the small things.”  – Vicki Luke

Vicki collaborated with a variety of scientists to learn about a range of aquatic ecosystems and their functions, interpreting the science she learnt within her art to spark curiosity. Since the start of the exhibition, Vicki has enjoyed seeing that curiosity from kids and adults alike, provoking a sense of wonder of the natural world. 

For Vicki, supporting the learning of future generations is critical to continuing the appreciation and advocacy for how we manage water, something she refers to as “a gift in inland Australia”. Her artwork combines science and culture to provide a gentle prod to viewers about the need for stronger action on climate change. 

Floating feather. Source: Vicki Luke

Vicki’s artwork is on show at Murray Art Museum Albury until the 6th of November and we highly recommend you pop down to have a look if you have the chance. This work is a brilliant example of what can come from the intersection of art and science.

This four-year engagement was made possible through Art of Threatened Species, an initiative of the Office of Environment and Heritage, Orana Arts and Create NSW, the Murray Art Museum Albury’s Open Call program and Murray Arts ‘ART>WORK’. Vicki worked with a range of experts as part of this project, including Flow-MER team members.   

Featured Photo: Short necked turtle. Source: Vicki Luke

Why we focus on food webs…

Food webs show how food and energy resources such as microbes, algae and reeds are connected with consumers such as waterbugs, fish and waterbirds. Our work investigates how Commonwealth environmental water influences food webs and water quality in the rivers, floodplains and wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin.

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