Staff Profiles

Naomi Cass

Naomi Cass, Director

What year did you join CAM: 2019

What you enjoy most about working at CAM: My attention and passion ranges from the smallest items in the collection--for example the tiny shell and paper shoes from La Perouse (NSW) made by the local traditional owners and for which we have so little information as yet--through to our magnificent art deco building. I am inspired by working with the Jaara traditional owners, artists, experts and community from across the region and beyond, to care for and bring the collections to life and the building to its best.

A favourite item from the collection: Choosing a favourite item is like favouring one child. How do I choose between the striking facade adorned by Orlando Dutton's mural above the entrance and framed by Michael O'Connell's decorative planters, or our estimable collection of Clarice Beckett paintings. I love the way CAM's diverse collections speak to each other and inspire contemporary artists to delve and explore, as exemplified in our In Conversation series of exhibitions with Janina Green (2019) and Melinda Harper (2021). In this vein, I am going to select one of the vitrines from Melinda Harper: In conversation with the Collection.

Why you’ve chosen this item: All the works in this vitrine hover in a similar tonal range: from creamy raw silk to eggshell white; pineapple straw; milky Belleek ceramic; aged white net and embroidery cotton; through to the amber tones of a mysterious seed pod and Christian Waller's linocut of a dynamic art deco figure--all juxtaposed by Melinda Harper's outrageous reflective mini sculptures of posh used perfume bottles adorned with small round Indian mirrors. Here is the joy of small items in varying degrees of completion and composure, crafted with love and skill by local women artists. And as Jane McAuslan's 1866 sampler in the lower left of the vitrine declares: 'Remember me'.

Installation view, Melinda Harper in Conversation with Collection, Castlemaine Art Museum, 2020. Image: Julie Millowick.

Nell Fraser

Nell Fraser, General Manager

What year did you join CAM: 2020

What you enjoy most about working at CAM: Community engagement makes everything worthwhile. The most joy I get from CAM is when our guides group is in and the galleries are full of their voices teaching each other about art; when school groups visit; when I walk through the gallery and see visitors - both strangers and those I know – totally immersed in an object. Objects activated.

A favourite item from the collection: I love the silk samples we hold from the Victorian Ladies Sericultural Company, which was established on the side of Leanganook in the 1870s by Mrs Bladen Neil.

Why you’ve chosen this item: The Victorian Ladies Sericulturalist Company interests me as a co-operative organisation set up to provide employment opportunities for local women. I find the production of silk quite awe-inspiring, and it’s great to hold samples of silk at different stages of production.
As a natural product, there is an interesting connection to place (Harcourt), too. This cultivating of a resource sits in an obscure dialogue with the concurrent plundering of the country by gold-miners, and the lack of Jaara voices. A complicated act of care in contrast to the extraction.

Elizabeth Retallick

Elizabeth Retallick, Front of House

What year did you join CAM: 2013

What you enjoy most about working for CAM: I love to have interactions with our visitors - you really get to meet some interesting and talented people. Whether a first time visit to the gallery or a local resident who visits frequently, I enjoy a chat and discussing our current exhibitions. Also, I am surrounded by magnificent artwork for my viewing pleasure all day!

A favourite item from the collection: John Perceval, Double Sunset.

Why you’ve chosen this item: To be honest, I really don’t know. This painting has always had an effect on me and I can never walk past it without pausing. Does it remind me of a sunset past? A place in time? A moment captured? When I figure out the answer, I will update this bio.

John Perceval, Double Sunset, 1961, oil on board. Purchased 1962.

Felix Wilson

Felix Wilson, Front of House

What year did you join CAM: 2019

What you enjoy most about working for CAM: Having moved into the region recently, I’m fascinated with the historical collections, in particular the photographs, and have enjoyed working on digitising some of these so that they are more widely available.

A favourite item from the collection: There are so many wonderful items in the collection, but a particular favourite is this photograph made by William Mountier Bale, naturalist, educator and father to the artist Alice Marian Ellen Bale, from almost 100 years ago in Vaughan, where I live. Both father and daughter made photographs in and around Castlemaine and these at Vaughan are some of the earliest from the album of prints in the CAM collection.

Why you’ve chosen this item: Photography has many powers. It cannot let us know the past fully, but we can see the surfaces of things as they were. I recognised the remaining tree when I first saw the print, the small pool and the line of the road in the background have not changed all that much among the paddocks of the volcanic plateau above Vaughan. In 1926 the poplar trees were already well established, and while one has fallen, the other of the pair is now in the period of graceful decline, upright against the sky.

William Bale, No Title (At Vaughan, 1926), c1926, silver gelatin photograph. Brotherton/Cherry Estate Bequest.

Anna Schwann

Anna Schwann, Front of House and Prize Administrator

What year did you join CAM: 2021

What you enjoy most about working for CAM: My work with CAM has been multifaceted so far, which has afforded connections with the team of staff, volunteers and the public alike. From this viewpoint I have the ability to act as conduit, sharing information and feedback which are the things that instigate growth and change. Since this institution has a history of being community powered it's an important part of the process to take into the future. And I get to work with lots of amazing people.

A favourite item from the collection: John Nixon, Purple and Black, 2015.

Why you’ve chosen this item: It’s probably a bit of 90’s nostalgia creeping in since the colour combination and form of this painting feel like snapshots from highschool for me. I find it repulsive yet attractive, I’m drawn to tensions within artworks and use them in my own practice. The minimal nature of this work means that the more time you spend with it, the more is revealed to you and being aware of my own dwindling attention span I appreciate the reminder to stay for a while.

Installation view, Melinda Harper in Conversation with Collection, showing John Nixon, Purple and Black, in background. Image: Julie Millowick.

Yvonne Tang

Yvonne Tang, Support Officer, AMaGA Regional Digitisation Program

What year did you join CAM: 2021.

What you enjoy most about working at CAM: That I am able to walk through a quiet, contemplative space everyday.

A favourite item from the collection: Donald Laycock, The Dragon that Swallowed the Sun, 1963, oil on canvas.

Why you’ve chosen this item: This large, impressive (almost 6ft wide) painting is a force of nature - the sheer size of it took my breath away. To me, both the dragon and the sun signify the beginning of things, and both embody an omnipresence that never fades. I can conceptualise that the energy of the Sun is finite and the dragon, mythical; yet, the impression they give is that they are perpetual. The collision of the dragon and sun in this painting emanates momentum and when I look at it, I feel energised and invigorated.

Donald Laycock, The Dragon that Swallowed the Sun, 1963, oil on canvas.

Jenny Long

Jenny Long, Consultant and honorary curator

Deb Peart

Deb Peart, Honorary conservator

What year did you join CAM: 2019.

What you enjoy most about volunteering for CAM: The excitement of discovery and the variety of curious interconnecting challenges that crop up while working with the CAM collection make working/ volunteering interesting.

A favourite item from the collection: Clifton Pugh, The Crab Catcher, 1958, oil on composition board.

Why you’ve chosen this item: The Crab Catcher tugs at a deep level. I put it down to an interest in the work of Clifton Pugh during my student days. With the abstracted, naked crab catcher strongly entwined in the rocks and immediate environment, large hands outstretched, there is a sense of full participation, yet a vulnerability. Pugh’s close up, intimate depictions of the Australian bush appear to capture the essence of one’s felt experience. The character of the Australian bush is there. Memories of childhood experiences are intensely evoked by the imagery, limited colour range, paint layering and loose brush strokes.

Clifton Pugh, The Crab Catcher, 1958, Oil on composition board.

Diane Frape-Linton

Diane Frape-Linton, Honorary Museum Curator

What year did you join CAM: 1991 (retired May 2021).

What you enjoy most about volunteering for CAM: I joined CAGHM in 1991. I already had museum cataloguing skills, so filled a gap in that department. I donated my skills because I have a passion for preserving our past and a belief that it is a worthwhile occupation.

A favourite item from the collection: The framed samples of needlework projects.

Why you’ve chosen this item: I remember having to produce similar items when being taught to sew in primary school in 1949.

Nell Hunt, Sewing Samplers, c1880-1890, material and thread.

Womindjika Woorineen willam bit
Willam Dja Dja Wurrung Balug
Wokuk mung gole-bo-turoi
talkoop mooroopook

Welcome to our homeland,
home of the Dja Dja Wurrung people
we offer you people good spirit.
Uncle Rick Nelson

The Jaara people of the Dja Dja Wurrung are the Custodians of the land and waters on which we live and work. We pay our respects to the Elders past, present and emerging. We extend these same sentiments to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations peoples.

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