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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Wendy Whiteley in conversation with Janet Hawley

19 October 2015

Enigmatic Wendy Whiteley was iconic artist Brett Whiteley’s wife, muse and model. Since the death of the artist in 1992, followed by the tragic death of their daughter nine years later, Wendy has worked tirelessly to create a huge beautiful public garden on disused overgrown railway land.

The National Portrait Gallery invites the media to hear Wendy in candid conversation with author Janet Hawley at 10.30am, Wednesday 21 October 2015, to celebrate the release of the book Wendy Whiteley and The Secret Garden. Janet will join a discussion with Wendy about her determination to create a magnificent harbourside garden in Sydney’s Lavender Bay and how the process has transformed Wendy’s life.

Wendy is very happy with Janet’s representation of the garden in the book which includes stunning photography by Jason Busch, selected artworks by Brett Whiteley, imagery and evocative anecdotes from the twenty year history of the garden’s development.

‘It’s a beautiful book, it’s the story of the garden and the history of the Whiteley family including the lead up to how I started building the garden,’ said Wendy. ‘The garden’s helped me enormously I think. When Arkie died it was a place I went where I could be quiet and think that, well basically that life was worth living, you know, that there was something to do with life.

‘I’ve loved making this garden. It’s been a great gift to my life. It let me find myself again, and it’s my gift to share with the public.’

Author Janet Hawley says ‘Wendy’s story is inspiring and I am honoured to be given the chance to share it in a beautiful and meaningful way with the public.’

‘To me the garden is Wendy’s alchemy. She’s turned a huge rubbish dump into a glorious blooming, flourishing garden. She’s transformed the garden and along the way it’s transformed her.’

‘Wendy has made this garden like a painting, it is her living artwork, using her own creative skills. Wendy has paid for the entire garden for over 20 years, so it is a huge act of philanthropy. it is Wendy Whiteley’s gift to the public, and a wonderful linkage – Brett Whiteley’s iconic Lavender Bay paintings and Wendy Whiteley’s Lavender Bay garden.

‘Wendy is delighted that NSW Premier Mike Baird last week promised that Wendy’s secret garden is now safe, and will have a permanent 30-plus-30 year lease, and a trust will be set up to secure its ongoing care and maintenance, following Wendy’s vision.’

The conversation will be followed by a Q & A session and book signing. Wendy Whiteley and The Secret Garden is available from retailers around the country.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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