Chris Hazells’ prize-winning portrait of local identity, Wayne Whitney.
Chris Hazells’ prize-winning portrait of local identity, Wayne Whitney.

Wayne Whitney portrait a winner

A LOCAL identity in the art scene, Chris Hazell, has won a regional art prize by painting a local icon, Wayne Whitney.

Chris took out the inaugural Northern Rivers Portrait Prize People’s Choice Award through the Lismore Art Gallery for her portrait, titled Unsung.

Wayne, who is known for his driver-reviver centre in South Grafton and can be seen walking around town in his white robes, has known Chris for years. She was intrigued by the character in his face and asked to paint him.

“His initial response was why would you want to paint my ugly mug?” she said.

“But he came around and made an excellent subject.”

The reasoning behind using Wayne as a subject the title of the artwork being Unsung is that Chris believes that Wayne’s work within the community goes widely unrecognised.

“I believe that because Wayne is a little off the grid he doesn’t get recognised for his good work. He opens his home to the needy and has 10 rooms available for them and has a truly fascinating story to tell,” she said.

The next project for Chris involves getting her first solo exhibition off the ground. Recently, she won the Tenterfield Brush With Verse exhibition in March this year with the PuppetMaster painting which also won first place in the

champion exhibit section of the Grafton Art Club’s 41st Jacaranda Art Exhibition.

Lismore Regional Gallery curator, Kezia Geddes said almost 5000 people attended the exhibition, sponsored by The Echo, and 791 votes were cast in the People’s Choice award.

The votes were evenly spread across the 54 finalists with Chris just ahead of the pack and Kezia said the volunteers who hung the exhibition had their own unofficial Packer’s Prize and they also chose Unsung.

In her artist’s statement about the work Chris described Wayne like this:

“A junkie from age 12, Wayne spent 10 years in and out of prison for drug and robbery-related crimes.

“Fourteen years ago, whilst in Grafton Correctional Centre Wayne had a life-changing epiphany and converted to Christianity. Upon release, Wayne set out to lead a life devoted to his beliefs.

“Finding the church

institutions apathetic and hypocritical, Wayne, his wife Megan and their children decided to go it alone.

“Finding an old orphanage for rent, they cleaned it up and opened the doors to anyone in need.

“With 10 bedrooms available, Wayne’s unconventional approach meets the needs of those who slip through the cracks of traditional support services.”



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