Home' LOTL : February 2007 Contents 41
It was a scene watched with equal delight by
Denise’s partner Carolyn Campbell.
“Every time someone buys something I get so
excited that I spontaneously hug them and they
hug me back,” Denise explains, as the three of us
sit down to dinner months later.
In this tiny, tropical corner of north-west WA,
Denise and Carolyn are enjoying flourishing trade
in tandem with their burgeoning relationship. An
extraordinarily prolific artist who has won a swathe
of awards, Denise’s ability to capture the region’s
colours on canvas has won her many fans over
The gallery – her long-held dream – has been
wonderful for both of them, Carolyn explains, even
though it’s been a rocky road to success. “I gave
up everything to come here – my job, my dog,”
she says. “She gave up everything to be with me
and the cats,” Denise finishes.
The pair first met in 2003 through a mutual ex
but it wasn’t until January 2006 when Carolyn
bumped into Denise – the woman Carolyn’s ex-
partner had left her for – that sparks really flew.
“I had a big exhibition in Sydney and went to
Melbourne so I could be there for Midsumma and
Mardi Gras – and I saw Carolyn,” Denise explains.
“I gave her a hug and said ‘Have a great year’.”
Wanting to clear the air, Carolyn invited Denise
and her ex – now also Denise’s ex – round to her
place the following day. “Denise and I just hit it off
then,” she says.
As enormous bushfires raged around the property
– a metaphor not lost on the pair – they spent the
week together and quickly fell in love.
“I was outside painting one night and Carolyn
came outside,” Denise explains. “There was this
amazing silence and I thought, ‘Oh this is beautiful.
This is easy and gorgeous’.”
After several months of the “long distance thing” –
Denise had to fly back to Broome to teach at TAFE
while Carolyn resumed teaching in Melbourne
– Carolyn was finally tempted to the West coast.
“We were going through the process of trying
to organise the gallery,” Carolyn says. “After two
weeks I was thinking ‘God, I don’t want to
leave her alone to do this by herself’. When I got
back to Melbourne my principal said to me, ‘Are
you still in love? Do we need to talk?’ and I said
Carolyn moved to Broome and things started to
take off. “Glenn the chiropractor came knocking
on the door wanting to buy a painting and it hasn’t
stopped since,” she says. Several weeks later the
gallery was approved and the women launched
“We spent day and night for five weeks renovating,
cutting and plastering – we did everything except
connect the electricity,” Denise says. “We finished
at 1am on Friday, opened the doors Saturday and
within two days we’d sold 18 paintings.”
For Denise, the gallery is both a vindication
of her success as an artist and the end of a
painful personal journey. She grew up in a “crazy
household”, with a schizophrenic brother and
a mother suffering recurring bouts of severe
depression. Art was her saving grace. Early in her
20s, she escaped to Broome and fell in love with
the town which would become her home.
After the devastating loss of her father several
years ago, she began to produce works that have
become her signature; inspired by artists including
Monet, Rothko and Van Gogh, they are acrylic
washes of pure colour evoking the Kimberley
landscape and coastline at their most beautiful.
She admits to being at peace, and comfortable
with whom she is – something she credits Carolyn
with. Their love has inspired Denise to revisit
Fem Energy, a celebration of femininity that has
spawned a range of evocative artworks.
“With Carolyn, the whole love space exploded
again and love energy came rushing out – and
with that the Fem Energy series was reborn,”
“It’s about celebration of female
sexuality, empowerment and strength in a beautiful,
emotive form …art evocative of the female form,
done by women for women.”
With her loving partner by her side, Denise
says her plan now is simply to contribute to the
wellbeing of society through her work so that
“people can wake up and look at the sky and feel
good and go out into the world feeling positive,”
“I see it as a small contribution – if you’re given a
gift, well, you need to share it.”
Visit denisewalkerart.com. The gallery is
open daily, 10am – 5pm, 19 Hamersley St.
WHEN FLIP PRIOR WALKED
INTO DENISE WALKER’S GALLERY
IN BROOME, THE EFFERVESCENT
ARTIST WAS MID-EMBRACE WITH
A DELIGHTED CUSTOMER WHO’D
BOUGHT A PAINTING OF THE
COASTLINE AT SUNSET.
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Denise (left) with
Carolyn; and one of
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