26 September, 2016

Wendy Whiteley and the secret garden by Janet Hawley; photography by Jason Busch

Wendy Whiteley was muse, model and wife to the Australian artist Brett Whiteley, and this beautifully illustrated coffee table volume is a celebration of their life and creativity.
In 1974 they purchased a rundown Federation house overlooking Lavender Bay, with a magnificent view of the Sydney Harbour bridge and the city on the far side of the harbour.

The history of Lavender Bay is interesting. Once a v-shaped natural cove edged with sandstone cliffs, in 1890 it was filled in so the railway line could travel round the foreshore. This left a wide valley between the railway embankment and the cliff top which, over the years, became a tangled mess of feral plants and dumped rubbish.

In 1992 Brett died of a drug overdose and Wendy threw herself into cleaning up the wasteland and creating a garden in an attempt to put some order back into her life. Fifteen years later, with the help of numerous volunteers, her vision has become a reality.
People come from far and wide to visit. Tourists and locals wander through, wedding ceremonies often take place and office workers lunch there, but the land belongs to State Railways and there is still no guarantee that it can become a permanent public park. Hopefully, this book will contribute towards that happening.

Strangely enough, (or not so strangely) Wendy’s favourite book as a child was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett!
It’s definitely on my 'to do' list when I next visit Sydney.

Title: Wendy Whiteley and the secret garden
Author: Janet Hawley; photography by Jason Busch

Recommended by Claire S, Central Library, Information Services. 

Claire S's reading includes biographies, art, New Zealand, and other interesting bits and pieces.

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