Alison McMaugh was one of the many young women artists trained in Sydney in the 1950s who found more opportunities abroad, in her case in Michigan, USA. Her work is characterised by intense colourful abstract paintings and drawings, with a hint of landscape.
Alison McMaugh was born in Kempsey in regional New South Wales. When she was a student at the National Art School in Sydney she befriended fellow student, Brenda Humble, and was credited by Humble for her ongoing support when Humble was under extreme financial pressure. Friends remember her as one of the free spirited Kings Cross bohemian crowd whose active social life stretched between the art school and the Cross. McMaugh exhibited in a group exhibition in 1954 and in a solo exhibition at Macquarie Galleries in 1957. She then followed the popular path of young Australians of her generation and travelled to London. In 1958 she met an American art student James Adley. They married in 1959 and returned with him to Michigan, where he became a professor of Art at Michigan University. She continued to paint as well as write poetry. Although based in the USA, she kept close links with Australia. She returned for an extended visit in 1982 and in 1983 had a critically successful exhibition at Garry Anderson’s new art gallery in Macleay Street. In 2003 she had a further successful exhibition with Helen Maxwell Gallery in Canberra. It was on her return from this Australian visit that McMaugh was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer. In September 2003 she became a citizen of the United States, without relinquishing her Australian citizenship. This enabled her to vote for John Kerry in the 2004 election, although she was by then already gravely ill.