Written by Louisa Tiley
Meg Minkley started her iconic A Drawing A Day project in 2013, after being drugged and sexually assaulted by a hostel owner in Mexico. As well as being a brave public display of her strength, vulnerability and emotional turmoil during an incredibly difficult time, her daily drawings are a fascinating ode to the cathartic power of art.
From the earliest days of the project
When Minkley began her drawings, she set concrete guidelines: no erasers and no scrunched paper allowed. It’s these basic rules, founded in acceptance, that allowed her to gradually come to terms with her trauma.
“This creative process allowed me to go within and put the words I couldn't say into shapes and colour that represented a time and a place or a feeling.”
Early on, Minkley’s artistic expression was rooted in symbolism. By working with powerful metaphors and inspirational imagery, she slowly transferred her pain onto the canvas.
In particular, she drew on iconic artist and contemporary feminist icon Frida Kahlo.
“Frida is a Mexican legend, a woman, an artist and a survivor. I found so much solace in allowing her into my work as a friend who helped carry me on my way. Also she is just so beautiful and who doesn't love her!”
'Dreaming Frida' - Available at artpharmacy/dreamingfrida
Colour is the second backbone of Minkley’s work; drawing on ubiquitous experiences to glue together her all-important symbols.
“I use colour to represent a language that words cannot always convey.
Colour is the way in which we all see the world and it’s the way in which we create our worlds, all of our memories are a collection of colour, pattern, shape, music and smells – my work is an abstract collection of this in my life.”
And while, five years after her horrific sexual assault, colour is still crucial to Minkley’s visual language, her symbolism has become much more oblique over the years, moving away from the traumatic events which led to her A Drawing A Day project.
“Today [symbols] come from overhead conversations, last minute song lyrics and the shapes in between the leaves when the sun shines through.
Now it’s all just beauty and about what sends out good vibes in an otherwise rocky sort of world.”
Minkley is now found living in New York City, with a flourishing business, commissioned works, regular exhibitions and the new title of “Wall Dog” – slang for muralist. Her current works are larger, bolder and more experimental than they were five years ago.
“I am currently working on three collections which are made up of very, VERY large works. One collection will be exhibited not just as artworks but also as a textile range. The other two are painted portraits of women during this exciting time of #MeToo, #TimesUP and #HandsOffHarvey.”
Like any great artist, Minkley’s work deeply reflects her sense of self. While she’ll be healing forever, she’s largely at peace with her traumatic past – something reflected in the increasingly bold nature of her works.
“I feel very grounded and the best version of me and I do feel that the past can absolutely be felt as just that – the past.
I find that I am challenging my creativity and pushing my own colour boundaries by experimenting with materials and most recently getting to understand the ins and out of digital art.”
Perhaps Minkley’s most impressive feat of all is her ongoing commitment to helping survivors of sexual violence. Far from trying to leave her trauma in the past, she’s making waves through her very own foundation, FemFound.
Set up with a bunch of close friends, FemFound is a practical way Minkley’s work can carry on the conversation around sexual violence, as well as supporting all “warriors” – survivors of assault.
“It’s ingrained in me as a survivor and a female. I will always continue to wave the flag for women. After the success of A Drawing A Day I saw the opportunity to create a foundation that fills in the resources gap for survivors of sexual assault.”
FemFound is a support structure that offers online resources, a space to share stories anonymously and a range of funky products aiming to change the conversation around sexual assault in Australia.
And as for the A Drawing A Day project? It’s been going for 5 years now – but is treated with a little more flexibility on top of Minkley’s ongoing commercial work these days.
“Now you will find my work is far more detailed, better executed and still done in a day – but posted more sporadically across a collection of days.”