Here’s how artist Sebastian Di Mauro created art about his heritage

Sebastian Di Mauro, Greenback 2019, (Lincoln Memorial, Washington, one of five US buildings), US military blankets, embroidered and appliquéd

Sebastian Di Mauro is a significant Australian artist who has contributed engaging and often controversial public art to the urban realm. His first solo exhibition since 2015 coincides with the screening of Sebastian Di Mauro: Portrait of the Artist at the State Library of Queensland on Friday 5 April

The following day, Di Mauro will be “In Conversation” at Onespace Gallery prior to the opening of his exhibition Greenback

Sebastian Di Mauro’s experience of relocation from Australia to Delaware, USA has fuelled this new and powerful body of work that he carried back to Brisbane in his suitcase. In his view, “Greenback is seminal as it helps clarify who I am, where I have come from and, to some extent, where I may be going. Immigrating to the US has heightened my awareness of being an Australian, and my Sicilian parentage.”

A series of five embroidered and appliqued US military blankets redolent with the musty aroma of woven wool, Greenback (a term used to refer to American dollars) reminds us that, after the fundamentals of food, shelter and safety, the migrant requires money and comfort in order to settle. These “Greenbacks” – slang for American paper currency – portray the country’s history with their depiction of significant buildings seen on the reverse side of the notes. The Lincoln Memorial on the $5 note, the US Treasury from the $10 bill, the White House on the $20, the Capitol building rendered on the $50 bill, and the Independence Hall on the $100 are all rendered on these dark green blankets using applique and embroidery.

This experience of moving from Australia to a place as seemingly familiar as America increased Di Mauro’s understanding of the intensity of his Italian grandparents’ migration to Australia from Sicily in the early twentieth century. He said, “It must have been difficult for my grandparents to comprehend the political incarnations of their new land.”

Nothing really prepares you for life in a different country and culture. Subtleties become exaggerated; loss of self is exacerbated when you have no immediate family or friends for support and nurture.

In depicting iconic American landmarks, Di Mauro steps firmly into a political realm. The incumbency of Donald Trump has highlighted divisions in American society. He notes, “These buildings and monuments are embedded with the history and governance of the United States. By creating artworks from these buildings I have highlighted the current levels of funding and power vested in the military.”His rendition of the White House is made from grey Officer’s blankets and looks dark and foreboding. The flag flies at half-mast.

See Sebastian Di Mauro speak about his work on 5 and 6 April. All events are free. 


Portrait of an Artist with Sebastian Di Mauro, Auditorium 1, State Library of Queensland, Friday 5 April 2019, 6.30 pm

ONExchange Conversation with Louise Martin-Chew, Onespace Gallery, Saturday 6 April, 4:15pm

Sebastian Di Mauro Greenback

Opening Night: Saturday 6 April, 5-7pm

Onespace Gallery

13a Gladstone Road
Highgate Hill Q 4101

Exhibition 3 April – 27 April 2019