Our golden couple ready to be bronzed Aussies

COUNTRY music’s most famous couple and the darlings of the Golden Guitar industry are set to be immortalised in bronze in Tamworth.

Slim Dusty and Joy McKean are the latest street art sculptures that will have pride of place in the pedestrian mall that is the boulevard of buskers during the Country Music Capital’s January festival.

They’ve just been sent packing from Maryland, Newcastle, sculptor Tanya Bartlett’s studio to the foundry where the moulds are being cast in bronze.

Bartlett has modelled her life-sized sculptures on an old touring photograph of the first couple of country music taken in Townsville in 1958.

“They aren’t joined together but they’re close together and we’ve added an extra little bit, a saddle, and that’s quite significant because it was Slim’s best mate’s saddle,” the artist said.

Bartlett consigned the two in individual packaging to the foundry and then took off on a beach holiday last week, looking forward to some respite and relief from the sculptural work that has possessed her for months.

Bartlett admits this assignment of the Dustys was daunting, just like it was for the work she did of the singing cowboy, Smoky Dawson, in 2011, but for different reasons.

The fact she was working with an image that depicted the couple in their early outback touring days provided some more personal and professional pressures.

“It’s always nerve-wracking doing portraiture; it’s always the challenge,” Bartlett said.

While she had the old photo to work from, there was not a lot of other detail, so taking into account skin texture, wrinkles or character lines was an added element to the artist’s anxiety levels, and the real challenge was in making those subtle changes for the times and ages.

Another worry is that while her country background (she’s a Gunnedah girl too just like Miranda Kerr and Erica Packer) meant she knew a bit of Slim Dusty, she didn’t know a lot about Joy.

“I’m waiting to see what Joy thinks. It’s the ultimate feedback and I’d like her to be happy with it. She was very pretty. It’s unusual to see a sculpture of yourself and most of the time it’s a later date from when people have passed away, but she is in the wax museum.”

Like she has done with other creations, such as Les Darcy for Maitland, Don Bradman and Mary Poppins for Bowral, she begins the project with a small 3D model or, in this case, the old photo, first producing a plasticine form and then silicone rubber moulds from which comes the wax model which is eventually cast into sections and into the bronze.

Slim’s being bronzed now at the Manly foundry, a foot and a leg to go apparently, and Joy will be worked on the rest of the week.

Their bits and pieces will be welded together after Christmas, cleaned and coloured and then trucked to Tamworth and a ceremonial new home.

While Smoky Dawson provides a bench seat in mid-Peel St for fans and locals to get up close and personal, Slim and Joy will be 200 metres down the track at another prime street spot.

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