'Art should be for everyone ... people get intimidated by art. It should be part of our daily lives instead of something we go and see once a week'
Peter Tully melded art, life and politics. He would garnish his poached eggs with nipples, encrust a domestic iron with jewels and celebrate gay sex through his creations, subverting notions of good taste, morality and art.
Tully was undoubtedly the most influential designer involved with the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Grass. Through his role as artistic director from 1982-1986, he played a major part in the parade's transformation from political march to cultural event. The Mardi Gras workshop was founded under his direction in 1982-1983 (see Chapter 3).
During the seventies and eighties Tully worked with designers Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee, producing jewellery that drew on Australia's natural and cultural environment. His experience of traditional tribal cultures through many years of travel in New Guinea, Africa and India - along with the vibrant and creative urban sub-cultural 'tribes' he saw New York - stimulated the development of his 'urban tribalwear'.
He once said of the legendary Paradise Disco hotel in New York: 'It was about 85% black and very exciting. They played the best music I'd never heard and the people dressed. Even though they didn't dress expensively, they had lots of style. They could wear a paper bag and look like a million dollars. And they really impressed me. So that was the impetus to get into costume.'
Inspired by the way tribes created an identity through their ceremonial or party costumes, Tully was determined to create a cultural identity for his own gay tribe on his return to Australia.
Distaining the elitism of the art world, its precious attitudes and materials he became a master of transformation, using the most mundane and kitsch of modern materials and found objects: dayglo plastics, fake fur, trinkets and cheap toys. By combining them in unexpected ways, and drawing directly on the imagery of popular and gay culture, Tully could transform the ordinary into spectacle.
Best known for his extraordinary jewellery and costume designs, his range of production extended from small and intimate works to major public events such as World Expo 88.
Peter Tully died in Paris in August 1992 from an AIDS-related illness. He was 45.
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