Getting To Know… Bridie Connell

Bridie Connell tells us about art and go-go dancing:

Art is my job. I make art, I write about art, I curate art exhibitions, I’m on the board of an artist-run-initiative and I pay the bills by working in an art gallery. Too much? Probably, but I honestly don’t know any different. I’ve grown up with art and like any long-term relationship it takes a lil’ creativity and dedication to keep the spark alive. We’ve had our ups and downs but at the end of the day I can’t imagine my life without it.

I would describe my style as layered, but my loved ones describe it as “Creepy Chic”! I like honey traps – art that seduces with surface beauty and interrogates on closer inspection. I’m interested in representations of women in art and popular culture and much of my work deliberately toys with virgin/whore clichés of femininity. My inspiration is broad – lots of pop references, girlish nostalgia and Catholic iconography. I’m forever indebted to my mother’s 70s arts & craft journals and while I generally like to start with a concept I’m pretty good with my hands. I like styling and taking snap shots, hand stitch and embroidering, making multiples and little shrines and transforming found objects into treasure but most of all I like a bit of sass – backstage jokes about sex and dancing.

I’m also a go-go dancer. It’s my after-hours job! Think 60s style shimmy shakers rather than the fluffy boot wearing club horrors that come up on a go-go Google search and you’ll get the idea. Dancing is in my blood. I’ve done everything from jazz ballet and modern to cheerleading and burlesque – but I like to trace my love of go-go back to my failure to play an instrument alongside my musical siblings, “Don’t worry,” Mum reassured, “you can always be the go-go dancer for the band.” Fast forward to adulthood. I took a go-go class with burlesque star Tasia, we hit it off and began doing gigs with gorgeous go-girl Nette under the name The Go-Gettes and before I knew it I was getting paid to dance on stage with bands. Mum is pretty amused.

My recent art exhibition was all about go-go. The title, King’s Cross Affair, is taken from a sleazy 60s pulp fiction novel about life and love in Sydney’s red light district – a place that’s always held my fascination. I was inevitably drawn there as a teenager but none of the clubs could ever compete with the old photos of strippers and drag queens and go-girls I poured over as a kid. I was clearly born in the wrong era and this show is essentially an installation-based homage the original Sydney go-girls I idolise – including beautiful Jeanette Luke who worked as a go-go dancer in Kings Cross for over five years and has been so open and generous in sharing her stories of gangsters and ‘crotch watchers’ and sequin sewing backstage. I’m most excited to have The Go-Gettes performing on the opening night and instead of giving another stuffy artist talk I’ll be hosting a go-go dance class with the ever amazing Tasia the following Thursday. Fun. Pony on down!

It might surprise people to learn that I don’t have a stage name. Dancing as a Go-Gette I’ve never had to bother but the more solo and burlesque gigs I’m offered the more people ask. I’ve lots of pet names but nothing I want to take to the stage. Suggestions welcome!

I’d love to take a holiday, fall in love with a sexy rock and roller and live happily ever after.

Interview by Bobby Townsend