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Fiona Foley, printmaker, painter, sculptor and photographer was born in Maryborough, Queensland in 1964 and raised in nearby Hervey Bay. These towns and nearby Fraser Islander are all part of her traditional country. Foley grew up surrounded by the stories of her family, the Wondunna clan of the Badtjala people and was influenced by the book, The Legends of the Moonie Jarl (Jacaranda Press, Brisbane, 1964) that was written by her great uncle Wilf Reeves and illustrated by her great aunt, Olga Miller.
In 1983 Foley graduated from East Sydney Technical College with a Certificate in Art. From 1984 to 1986 she studied for her Bachelor of Visual Arts at Sydney College of the Arts. In 1987 Foley completed her formal training with a Diploma of Education from the University of Sydney. Foley, along with nine other artists that included Michael Riley, Bronwyn Bancroft and Tracey Moffatt, was a founding member in 1987 of Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative in Sydney. Boomalli’s aim was to promote the work of Aboriginal artists who did not live in the remote areas of Australia or were supported through federally funded arts centres. Boomalli went on to become the launching pad for many now successful artists besides the founding members.
Foley’s portfolio of etchings, paintings, photography and sculpture have afforded her significant recognition as a contemporary artist. Since winning the commission of the Historic Houses Trust of NSW in 1994 to work on the installation The Edge of Trees with Janet Laurence, situated outside the Museum of Sydney, Foley has become known as a successful public artist. She has since been the commissioned artist for other public art projects including, The Lie of the Land, 1997 at the Melbourne Museum and Witnessing to Silence at the Brisbane Magistrates Court in 2004. Her photographic, printing, painting and public art works often speak of the untold and hidden histories of Australia in terms of the colonial interaction with Aboriginal people. Witnessing to Silence informs its audience of Queensland’s documented history of Aboriginal massacres while Black Opium (2006, State Library of Queensland) speaks of Queensland’s 'Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897’ in which the supply and sale of opium to Aboriginal people was stringently legislated against alongside the recommendations to establish Reserves in which Queensland Aboriginal people were forcibly removed to.
Foley is one of Australia’s successful international artists whose work is often included in important group exhibitions such as “Global Feminism”, 2007 at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, USA or solo shows such as “Strange Fruit”, 2006 at the October Gallery in London, England. It is not only Foley’s artwork that is in demand. Her thoughts on Australian history and politics are also being sought and in September 2007 Foley presented a keynote address at the 9th Biennial European Association for Studies of Australia at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Other speakers at this conference were Germaine Greer and Mark McKenna from the University of Sydney. Foley works from her home base of Brisbane, Queensland and continues to generate solo exhibitions based on historical, political and social issues of Australian life as well as continuing her career as a public artist.