Celebrated Aborigine artist takes the bush to Hermes

SYDNEY Thu May 21, 2009 5:05am EDT

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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Aborigine Gloria Petyarr has become the first Australian artist to design for Hermes, creating a pattern for one of the silk scarves the French fashion house is renowned for.

"Bush Medicine Leaf Dreaming," a painting by the celebrated artist who lives in the remote desert community of Utopia, some 250 km (155 miles) northeast of Alice Springs, features in Hermes' Spring/Summer 2009 scarf collection.

Petyarr's scarf is called "Le Reve de Gloria" and retails for A$530 ($413) in Australia. Its burned orange, feathery design depicts special leaves with medicinal properties that Aborigines use to treat many ailments.

Art gallery owner Lauraine Diggins told Reuters Hermes first became interested in Petyarr's work after Diggins exhibited her paintings at an art fair in Paris in 2006.

"As Aboriginal women age and their hair goes grey, they like to wear scarves, so it's a very fitting thing that Hermes have commissioned Gloria to do a scarf," Diggins, of Melbourne's Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, said.

Diggins said she traveled to central Australia to supply Petyarr with the paper needed to paint the "leaves" design for the scarf, using specific measurements required by Hermes.

Petyarr, who could not be reached because she has no access to a telephone, has traveled and exhibited all over Australia as well as overseas. In 1999, she won one of Australia's most prestigious art awards, the Wynne Prize.

Diggins said Hermes had paid Petyarr a "substantial fee" for the commission and will pay her royalties for 75 years.

She would not disclose the exact figure, but said Petyarr had yet to see her scarf, which Hermes sent over this month, due to the difficulty of reaching her.

"Gloria hasn't seen the scarf yet because I'm not prepared to post it because it might not get there. I will have to go and personally hand it over," Diggins said.

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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