Now in its 12th year, the ‘Black Swan Prize for Portraiture’ – WA’s premier portrait prize – attracted 500 artists from across Australia in which 40 finalists were selected.
Recently drawn to a close, the finalists’ exhibition at the Art Gallery Of Western Australia gave the public an opportunity to vote for their favourite work in this year’s People’s Choice category. With nearly 3,500 votes cast, Victorian artist Jaq Grantford secured the win for her portrait of the late Ken Atherton, titled Tootsie. Grantford wins $7,500 kindly donated by the Baldock Family, who have supported this prize for the past three years.
‘At an age when most young people are celebrating an exciting and unknown future, Ken Atherton – or ‘Tootsie’ as he was later known – was dealing with a completely different reality. In 1949, at the age of sixteen, his twin brother died. His mother, unable to deal with the grief, committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid. At the age of twenty, Tootsie was jailed in Pentridge for two years, simply for being gay. During that time, he had a breakdown and only pulled through in the end through the support of a loving father. It was when Tootsie was sixty-two that he was finally able to celebrate who he really was, and he embarked on a grand new adventure. He became quite famous in the Australian drag scene. His story is testimony that things can change and as a society we can grow and develop a deeper understanding of others. He always remained himself, and wasn’t afraid in his later years to start something new… in a frock.’ – Jaq Grantford