A new artwork that celebrates Juanita Nielsen, the Darlinghurst resident and outspoken publisher of Kings Cross newspaper Now, will grace a curtain at the Juanita Nielsen community centre in Woolloomooloo. Nielsen was a vocal opponent of the redevelopment of the Kings Cross area in the 1970s, launching a vigorous editorial campaign in support of the ‘green ban’ movement. After visiting a famous drag club called Carousel in July 1975, Juanita disappeared. Her cause of death was never confirmed, but in 1983 a jury stated that there was ‘evidence to show that the police inquiries were inhibited by an atmosphere of corruption, real or imagined, that existed at the time.’
Today, artist Locust Jones, together with the Woolloomooloo and Kings Cross communities, is creating an artwork that remembers Juanita and her presence in the local area. It will embellish a large linen curtain at the centre, which is regularly used as a venue for community events.
Jones has spent a lot of time researching Nielsen and surveying the local area, where he lived briefly in the 1990s. As well as borrowing books and walking around from the Cross to the docks, he draws heavily on illustrations created by community members young and old, compiled during a series of five workshops in February. Jones says the drawings of some of the primary school-aged kids – who unsurprisingly know nothing of Juanita – are the most inspiring. But, insights from the senior citizens have also proved a fascinating resource.
“Some of the seniors knew Juanita personally, as well as her cousin. I also interviewed the head of police for the area at the time,” Jones says. “He said there’s a lot he knows and doesn’t know about the disappearance – and a lot he can’t talk about!”
All up, Jones is working with about 50 metres of drawings, incorporating text and imagery. He says he is looking to include ‘Woolloomooloo’, because “the name of the suburb itself has a lot of character”.
He weaves his own perspective among the personal stories of the local residents, many of whom were around to witness the Darlinghurst evictions and Juanita’s protest of these. He says this sentiment resonates well with his own practice, which often has political connotations.
Check out Locust Jones in action below and be sure to visit the curtain in person when it goes up later this year. This artwork is a new addition to our CityArt collection.