Ada Bird passed away in 2009.
Ada was born c. 1930 on Utopia Station at Atnangkerre in the Northern Territory of Australia, ca 270 km north of Alice Springs. She was one of the seven well known Petyarre sisters and shared with them the Dreaming of the Mountain Devil Lizard. The paintings in the Boomerang Art Collection have been done by Ada whilst I sat next to her. Her art can be found in many Australian and overseas galleries and museums and in many private collections.
Like her sisters, Ada evolved as a significant Indigenous artist surrounded and supported by her artist family.
Born around 1930 on Utopia Station at Atnangkere, Ada lived the last part of her life at Mulga Bore (borders Utopia). Her country was Atangkere and she is an Anmatyerre/Alyawarre speaker. Many of her paintings are based on women's body paint and incorporate notions of bush medicine, the bush bean, the Emuy, Pencil Yams and grass seeds. However, she also shares with her six sisters the Thorny Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming.
During 1977, Ada participated in the batik program at Utopia and therefore was one of the originators of the 'Utopia School'. It has been shown that the batik makers moved on to painting with acrylic paint and canvas in 1988 and Ada was also deeply involved with this activity, her work being seen in the 'A Summer Project' show organised by CAAMA. This project saw the public beginning of Ada's painting career.
Two years later she had her first solo show, at Utiopa Art in Sydney, a remarkable achievement for a 'new' painter. Although Ada would tell you that she had been painting all her life. Then, by 1995, it was said of Ada that she was the second most important artist from Utopia (after Emily Kame Kngwarreye).
Ada's work was based solidly in symbols and the power and depth of meaning that they convey. This, of course, is the basis of desert art and Ada is rightly recognised as one of the founders. As is the case with a number of other older ladies of the desert her paintings demonstrate one of the last remaining links with women's ceremonial knowledge.