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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming

Photo: iocolor, Seattle

Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming


Kathleen Petyarr

Australian Aboriginal, Anmatyerr people, Utopia, Central Desert, Northern Territory, born ca. 1940 - 2018

Pointillism is taken to new levels by Kathleen Petyarr who paints with meticulous care using a satay stick. Her wavy X across the middle of the painting marks the path of a specific lizard, the Mountain Devil Lizard. What is recorded here is the lizard’s idiosyncratic habit of meandering, swerving around obstacles, never following a straight path. The dots that appear in dense clusters simultaneously convey the spotted pattern of the lizard’s skin, the seeds or small ants she eats, and the sandstorms she passes through.

This ancestor established the features of the landscape in her pilgrimage of creation and women follow her trail during ceremonial cycles. The central X marks the spot where women custodians sing and dance to revive a narrative emphasizing feminine fortitude and reliance on traditional leaders. These paintings map multiple levels of existence, including the ancestral past, practical necessities of the present and hopes for the survival of generations to come.

--Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art, 2012
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
48 1/16 x 48 1/16 in. (122 x 122cm)
Gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan in honor of Kimerly Rorschach
Provenance: [Gallerie Australis, Adelaide, Australia]; Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, Seattle, Washington, 2000
Photo: iocolor, Seattle
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistoryAdelaide, Australia, Flinders University Art Gallery, From Appreciation to Appropriation, Mar. - Apr. 2000.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection, May 31 - Sept. 12, 2012 (Nashville, Tenessee, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, June 23 - Oct. 15, 2017; Madison, Wisconsin, Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Jan. 26 - Apr. 22, 2018; Austin, Texas, Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, June 3 - Sept. 9, 2018; Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, Audain Art Museum, Oct. 5, 2018 - Jan. 28, 2019). Text by Pamela McClusky, Wally Caruana, Lisa Graziose Corrin, and Stephen Gilchrist. Cat. no. 32, pp. 116-117, reproduced.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Walkabout: The Art of Dorothy Napangardi, May 5, 2018 - Mar. 7, 2021 [on view beginning Sept. 3, 2019].
Published ReferencesFarr, Sheila. Richard C. Elliott: Primal Op (Salem, Oregon: Hallie Form Museum of Art, Willamette University/Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 2014); reproduced fig. 15, p. 23.

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

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