WORDS: NAT DOWLING | IMAGES: SUPPLIED
In 2017, Queensland artist and curator, Cara-Ann Simpson spent almost a year in hospital with a severe brain infection. She was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and neurosarcoidosis. Cara-Ann had to relearn to walk and speak clearly. Creativity gave her back a sense of belonging.
At the rehab centre, Cara-Ann’s partner, Michael, would take her into the gardens where she would pick flowers and then arrange them in plastic cups back in her room. This was the beginning of her way back to art practice, and of regaining hope for a future.
The practice followed her home and grew into the in-person and online exhibition, Furari Flores (Stealing Flowers).
“Creativity gave me back a sense of belonging to the world and also that sense of wonder that we tend to lose as adults. Also, in my meaningful connection to nature, I was able to connect to the person that I thought I had lost,” says Cara-Ann.
“Now I learn a lot from nature and by interpreting it. On the surface I am quite analytic and scientific, not the stereotypical eccentric artist type. But I have found my niche and it helps me to learn about myself along the way.”
Cara-Ann has been an artist for over 18 years. She’s also a curator, educator, author and consultant. Her background encompasses the arts, culture, heritage, tourism, festival and land management sectors.
“I can’t imagine not being able to create in some way. It’s how I process the world.
“Creativity is intrinsic to my being. Looking to nature and the environment helps me understand the world, and by creating I learn more about the world and myself.
“As someone with lived experience of disability, I’m also really interested in how I can make arts experiences more accessible.”
Relocating back to regional Queensland has been both rewarding and challenging for Cara-Ann. There are difficulties in accessing resources, suppliers and networks living regionally.
Another challenge is her health, and sometimes needing to step back and say no to opportunities. This is always difficult as she loves to get involved with opportunities and support others.
“Now, the biggest challenge is to maintain the focus and values of my business, and develop a sustainable income. Art is essential to society and cultural development, but it is not always something that is seen as an essential investment. It’s brave to be an artist in Australia.
“Furari Flores is an immersive arts experience, looking towards sensory engagement to support increased access. It is a way for me to connect to my community, while maintaining my wellbeing.
“It also allows me to share my story through images, video, sound, scent and tactile artworks.”
Cara-Ann is a multi-sensory artist, interested in developing truly immersive experiences that allow people to see, smell, hear and touch artworks.
She uses technologies such as photo manipulation, animation, spectrography (visual analysis of soundwaves), 3D printing, and manufacturing methods to do this.
Furari Flores is a multi-sensory arts experience celebrating the wonder of plants. It positions accessibility at its heart, while providing an opportunity to engage with a regional Queensland artist.
The exhibition will be at the University of Southern Queensland Art Gallery (Toowoomba Campus) 8 January to 16 February 2024 and available online.