WESTSIDER PROFILES – LARISSA MACFARLANE

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Larissa is a Naarm Footscray based artist, working across the mediums of printmaking, street art and a community art practice. Her work is inspired by the urban industrial landscapes of Melbourne’s West, as well as her experience of disability, to investigate ideas of belonging and place, healing and change, and ways that we can celebrate what we have here and now. She is known for her street art practice that investigates her daily ritual of performing handstands, a key part of her disability self-management. She came to the west in 2000, just a couple of years after a brain injury turned her life upside down, seeking a new life and to discover the “new Larissa”. For the past 14 years she has lived on the border of Seddon and Footscray.

The Snapshots of Seddon was founded in 2005 by Larissa and Eilis Hughes, then Metro access worker at Maribyrnong City Council. It was born out of a desire to create a welcoming and inclusive space for disabled people.

“I loved my new home in Seddon, but I was struggling to feel like I belonged. I didn’t yet know how to create my new life. When I visited the local street shops or went to local community events, none of my disabled friends were there. The shops and cafes often weren’t accessible, support wasn’t available and many people didn’t feel safe or included. And so, in a possibly naive and idealistic way, we decided to create an event that would be inclusive of everyone, not just able-bodied people. And we decided to put the project right in the middle of the community where we were invisible. “

So what else has changed in Larissa’s time here?

“Sadly, more trucks, even though I joined MTAG near the beginning in 2006, and truly believed back then that we would find a way to get trucks off our residential streets, we appear still no closer, at least not for Buckley St and Williamstown Rd. There’s also lots more health and medical services which is awesome for people who rely on these services.”

For small joys, Larissa rides her bike most days past the awesome Disability Pride mural in Nicholson St Footscray.

“I’m proud to see over 40 of my friends’ words and images bearing witness in public, and that Australia’s first Disability Pride mural is here. There’s also a sense of relief, as I remember the great battle that we undertook to get this up.”

Larissa also loves seeing her handstand artworks in the street each day, they are more than just pretty pictures, they are actual real handstand spots which remind her that she has created awesome ways to manage her chronic illnesses.

“They also remind me that the ways that my disability makes my life and body different, is not something that necessitates being hidden away.”

Larissa’s favourite hangouts continue to be Pompello in Victoria St. for awesome fruit and vege and Cocoa latte, in Fergusson St Williamstown for the best hot chocolate, and who for the past 8 years have turned their walls into a gallery for her framed artworks.

So what does the future hold for Larissa?

I am excited about the upcoming Snapshots of Seddon exhibition. There are over 800 photo entries from the years of 2006 -2011, which document a changing suburb. It runs from the 14th – 28th October in Seddon Village supported by local traders. Sponsored by Seddon Community Bank Branch.

For more info – www.iwce.com.au/news

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