Karla Dickens’ art of survival: ‘I was either going to jail or end up dead’
Born into a life of ‘crisis’, the Wiradjuri artist has lived through addiction, mental illness and psychosis. Now her first career survey celebrates her perseverance and artistic vision
Karla Dickens’s childhood was marked by chaos but when recalling her paternal grandparents, she chokes up. “Well, they were my rocks,” says the 55-year-old Wiradjuri artist. “I just felt really loved.”
On school holidays and weekends, Dickens would gravitate to Mascot, in inner-city Sydney, where her grandparents lived in a humble cottage without a phone. Her grandfather, a tall German man named Tommy, worked in an iron foundry, and would scour the streets for things people cast away, to fix in his tiny workshop.