THE BIGGEST JOY OF NEWCASTLE MIRAGE IS THE PEOPLE WE GET TO SPEAK WITH. KERRI SHYING GOT IN CONTACT WITH US TO OFFER SOME BEARDS AND WE ASKED HER TO ELABORATE… THIS IS HER ELABORATION.
By Kian West
Tell us a little bit about yourself Kerri?
I am one of those eccentric ladies of a certain age you see hobbling around Mayfield with a walking stick and a chihuahua. Somewhere, someone calls me ‘Mum”. I was a peer researcher in the sex and drug industry, liaising between the Department of Health and the funlands. I had to stop working in 2009 because of lupus and Sjogrens Syndrome.
So beards? Why?
I actually started with genitals, a commissioned gift for a gent from a fraternal motorcycle club who was going off to Her Majesty’s hotel for a bit. I made a beard to go with those genitals for future hiding from police. My beards are the most obvious of disguises. I made a set for Gary the Goat and Jimbo when they were arrested for eating grass in Sydney, and then kept going. I exhibited a selection of beards at The Lock-Up, in a piece called “Burkha”. When I was a younger woman, the partners of non-out gay men were called beards; it was a job that got you at least a few good meals out a year, concealing your gay friends’ true identity. I make all sorts of things, but I always come back to beards, and identity. Also, people do wear them; it is easy to inhabit a character and muck around with them on. My friend Milly says that ‘beards are a poncho for the face’.
What is Lupus?
Lupus is a defect of the immune system. It causes me to make antibodies to my own component cells. Lupus can target many different parts of the body; in my case it takes on my nerves and connective tissues. My body can’t differentiate itself from a flu virus or a particle of pollen. As far as my lupus is concerned, my cells are all wearing beards. I take medication daily to eradicate my immune cells as much as I safely can.
Where can people find you and your beards?
My beards can be found through messaging my Facebook page or at Cartellista, which is a public group page. An email to email@example.com will get my attention.
Have you got other artistic interests? Yes, I am a reasonably well-published writer, with a few Roland Robinson Awards, and I also make terrifying dolls and other soft art pieces, along with bespoke hats and scary photos that make viewers think I have taken my clothes off (I haven’t). Since I have become disabled, I am only exhibiting and publishing - sex and drugs are all behind me!
Anything else people should know about you? I have Chinese and Wiradjuri heritage and am proud of it. I mostly work freehand. I am never embarrassed. If you see me with my little dog Max stop and chat. The Mayfield streets keep me going.