Local artist sees beauty in pest
CANE toads aren’t usually considered beautiful.
But in the hands of Linelle Stepto, 55, they have become fine art.
The Burringbar artist turns their gnarled skins into exquisite replicas of iconic Australian flowers such as banksias and waratahs.
Now, after a recent showing of her unusual work at the Art Piece Gallery in Mullumbimby, eight of her pieces have been acquired for the Tweed River Regional Art Gallery.
“People are astonished when they see her art,” Mullumbimby gallery director Nadine Abensur said.
“It is not kitsch. It really does belong in a top-end gallery.
“But it certainly is a very unusual use of material.”
Mrs Stepto, a visual arts lecturer at Murwillumbah TAFE, said she had been working with skins for about five years.
“I started picking up road kill on my way into school,” she said.
“There were always lots of wallabies, possums and cane toads.
“I also work as a wildlife carer, so the idea of creating art with these things was about showing our fraught relationship with the natural world.
“At one stage I did make a wedding headdress out of road kill, but it was a bit extreme.”
These days, Mrs Stepto doesn’t have to get cane toad skins post-hit-and-run – they are sent to her from a company in Cairns.
She also has a supply of feral cat skins, bequeathed by a friend’s uncle, for when her interest in toads pales.
Mrs Stepto’s work will this year be entered in The Blake Prize, one of the more prestigious art prizes in Australia.
Ms Abensur said art collectors would do well to invest in the cane toad florals.