AGHS National Conference 2021 Presentation

Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden at Lavendar Bay

Presenters: Wendy Whiteley & Janet Hawley

Running time: 60 mins
File download format: M4V (MPEG-4)

Wendy Whiteley and the secret garden at Lavender Bay
Wendy Whiteley transformed this large area of disused, overgrown railway land, into what became known as Wendy’s Secret Garden. Wendy, her husband, acclaimed artist Brett Whiteley and their daughter Arkie, lived in the tower house above, from late 1969. Wendy still lives in the house and is often seen working in the garden and always ready to engage with visitors about her work and the garden. The presentation is casual and free ranging across the history, constraints and issues. Wendy’s gardening is driven by aesthetics, colour, form, beauty and whimsy. The gradual removal of the waste and debris from the land below her home for about twenty years revealed a garden as if by magic but in fact it is born of managing grief, hard toil and perseverance.

Wendy Whiteley & Janet Hawley
For more than twenty years, Wendy Whiteley has worked to create a huge public garden at the foot of her harbourside home in Sydney’s Lavender Bay. Wendy was Brett Whiteley’s wife, muse and model. An artist herself, with a finely honed aesthetic sense, she also created the interiors at the heart of Brett’s iconic paintings of their Lavender Bay home. When Brett died, Wendy threw her grief and creativity into making an enchanting hidden oasis out of derelict land owned by the New South Wales Government. Daughter Arkie Whiteley loved the secret garden and contributed a thriving copse of Bangalow palms, but nine years on, Arkie died, compounding Wendy’s loss. This glorious guerrilla garden is Wendy’s living artwork.

Janet Hawley enjoyed a huge readership in her thirty-year career as senior feature writer on Good Weekend Magazine, published in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. She is renowned for her intimate profiles of artists and creative people, and trusted by her interview subjects to explore their private worlds and the mysteries of their creative processes. She’s published two books on artists: Artists In Conversation and Encounters With Australian Artists. Her book A Place On The Coast, co-authored with Philip Cox, explores a love of gardens, art and architecture. Her wide-ranging feature writing for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian has won her numerous major awards, including two Walkley Awards and the Gold Walkley.

Janet’s long friendship with Brett and Wendy Whiteley led to her writing the story of Wendy’s major opus, the Secret Garden.

Photograph by Jason Busch

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