One way for victory of upcoming challenges

Perie Whitefield with Between Coldstream and Home. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Dongyun Kwon

A science and food studies teacher has transformed into an artist and is showcasing her artwork to locals at the Memo in Healesville.

The exhibition Victory Gardens, hosted by local artist Perie Whitefield, opened on Thursday 29 November until Sunday 14 February 2024.

Whitefield said she was inspired by the history of Victory Gardens.

“During the two World Wars, once the English and American governments realised that they needed food for the troops and there wasn’t enough food for the people in England, America and Australia,” she said.

“So they encouraged everyone to garden for victory.

“War broke down the food systems, so people had to become a lot more reliant on growing their own food, like using local things and making things fast and not wasting things because they didn’t have the resources that they had before.”

Whitefield said she wanted to educate and empower the community as the world is moving on towards big challenges for society regarding the food system due to global climate change and overpopulation.

“Food industries are predicting that things are going to get harder due to famine,” she said.

“A lot of history has meant that we have to look after our own food locally a lot more.”

Everything surrounding herself is Whitefield’s subject including her daily drive route to work and her memory with her family.

‘Between Coldstream and Home’, one of her artworks at the exhibition, captures the sights of roadside stalls and cellar doors along her way to the workplace with the abundance of local food.

‘Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder’ is inspired by a bouquet handpicked by her son and highlights the beauty and abundance that can be found in unexpected places.

The vase in the painting is her family heirloom and symbolises the passing down of values.

‘Family Traditions in Every Sip’ is a visual celebration of White’s family tradition reflecting the stories of her grandmother’s experiences during World War II, her resilience and resourcefulness and the culinary wisdom passed down through generations.

She didn’t major in art but studied nutrition at university.

However, her passion for art gives her the power to get through all the adversities to be a professional artist.

“I do paint for fun, self-expression, communication and artistic expression, it is my other career,” Whitefield said.

“I am only able to paint on weekends at the moment as I have another job, but I am quite serious about being an artist.

“I also do pottery, commissions and illustrate books.”

Her artistic journey faced a big crisis when she had a serious car accident in 2017 through which she broke her shoulder.

Whitefield said she lost the use of her arm and had to re-learn how to use it.

“I almost gave up my artistic journey back then because I could not move my right arm,” she said.

“But, I just tried to move my arm and restarted my journey and I found that it has helped my recovery as I use my arm more often.”

In the exhibition, there is an area where visitors can pick up the seeds of vegetables so that they can try to make their own Victory Garden.

As a teacher and an artist, Whitefield said she would keep up her work to encourage young generations and local communities to get into the benefits of growing food at home.