ONE of strongest advocates and allies of the Australian LGBTI community has had a portrait of her entered into the Archibald Prize, the country’s most prestigious art competition.

Shelley Argent, the former national spokesperson of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) was the subject for Sydney artist Iain Scott Wallace, who wanted to honour the much-loved figure on canvas.

“I wanted to paint somebody who advocated for the GLBTI community in some way, so I can get the opportunity to not only meet them but also thank them for their contribution,” he told the Star Observer.

“In a sense, I hope that the portrait would honour them.”

The full time high school teacher, who has been painting for 30 years, had the honour of having his first solo exhibition opened by former High Court Justice Michael Kirby.

Wallace felt it was his time to finally enter a piece into the country’s most renowned art competition and he could not have hoped for a better subject to paint.

“I was so thankful that Shelley Argent agreed to be my subject as I see in her the strong qualities that I believe would inspire others to advocate on GLBTI issues,” he said.

“Her work for PFLAG in assisting parents and children reconcile and educate to others of her proud mother’s view of her son, James, and the inequity she sees just because he is gay.”

Wallace hoped to portray Argent’s warmth and compassion that was responsible for her nickname as “every gay man’s mother”.

“I wanted to try and capture that genuine friendliness and that infectious laughter she has with everyone she meets. To have Shelley as my subject makes it even more significant as she creates a bridge to the straight community,” he said.

“She and the PFLAG are there in that very raw emotional moment when a parents finds out that their child is gay and asks ‘Who can I talk to about that who will understand?’… what an amazing community service she had led over the years and is certainly worthy of her Order of Australia Medal.”

A humble Argent praised Wallace’s talents and said it was finally time for it to be realised on a national scale.

“When Iain asked me if I would be his subject for this year’s entry I was not only surprised and humbled, but extremely honoured. Now that it is completed I am extremely pleased with how Iain portrayed me with his oils and expertise,” she said.

“Iain has held a dream of having one of his paintings hung in the Sydney Art Gallery for many years. Iain is a very talented art teacher held in high esteem by his students.

“I believe Iain’s talent is a well kept secret and it’s time for his talent to be recognised.”

Submissions for the Archibald Prize are still open. The winner is announced on July 18 and an exhibition of the shortlisted entries runs from July 19 to September 28.


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