Flesh after Fifty


We live in a society swamped with images, where high value is placed on physical appearance and an association between attractiveness and youth, particularly for women. Flesh after Fifty will explore and challenge negative stereotypes of aging while celebrating and promoting positive images of older women through art.

Australian artists have a history of photographing, painting and sculpting the female form, mostly by and for men whose interest in exploring youth, vulnerability and beauty has dominated the images we recognise. The way in which artists portray older women often reflects public attitudes. Images of older women have changed over the last century as fashion, community, politics and society have changed. Much of the time, images of older women are absent altogether. Some artists, however, are able to rise above fashion and convention to externalise personal desires and aspirations that challenge received perceptions and expectations.

Flesh after Fifty will bring to the fore images that need revisiting or have been overlooked, plus 10 new commissioned art installations that explore social issues, health and empowerment of older women. Artists have been challenged to produce art that explores untold stories that reveal the way in which fashion, ageism and oppression of women has influenced what we see and how we interpret older women in society. This exhibition will be accompanied by curatorial discourse and community engagement in a series of forums, events and essays by key academics, artists and community leaders exploring the politics and social impact around the construction of images of older women, addressing this topic in the pursuit of a new visual dynamic and appreciation of the older female form.

Lead Team

Professor Martha Hickey
is a clinical psychologist and gynaecologist. She is Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Melbourne, Director of Gynaecology Research Centre at the Royal Women’s Hospital, Head of Menopause Service at the Women’s and Visiting Professor at Harvard University.

Her research and clinical work are focused on healthy ageing in women, including both physical and emotional health. She conceived this project out of concern that the message to younger women about menopause ageing was almost exclusively negative and did not reflect the capability, diversity and achievements of older women.

She has extensive experience in designing, running and completing research projects with over 300 publications in women’s health. She has established collaborations the auspicing body (the Women‘s Foundation) and with Women’s Health Victoria. She is a powerful advocate of gender equality and a champion of older women.

Jane Scott
Lead Curator and Program Manager

Kirsty Grant
Assistant Curator

Meghan Bourke, Nkechi Anele and Tara Gallop-Brennan
Public Program Coordinators

Dianna Wells
Graphic design

Merren Ricketson
Education Coordinator

Kim Goodwin
Evaluation Manager

Prue Bassett

Liberty Scott
Social Media Manager

Vanessa White

Ben Davis
Website Manager

Mark Ashkanasy
Catalogue Photographer


Van Badham
Political Columnist and Culture Critic The Guardian Australia, Chair of the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre

Margaret Beattie
Senior Associate Hamilton Shaw Consulting
Technology and intellectual property lawyer

Professor Glenn Bowes AO
Faculty of Medicine Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne

Rita Butera
CEO, Safe Steps

Lord Mayor Sally Capp
City of Melbourne

Jane Fenton AM
Director, Gather My Crew

Penny Foster

Rhonda Galbally AC
Founding CEO Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Board member of the National Disability Insurance Agency

Dianne Hill
CEO, Women’s Health Victoria

Associate Professor Alison Inglis
Curator and Associate Professor in Art History, University of Melbourne

Debra Knight
Managing Director
Knight Mattingly Coffee Roasters

Victoria Marles
CEO Trust for Nature and Chair Abbotsford Convent Victoria

Sue Maslin AO
Film Producer

Sue Matthews
CEO, The Royal Women’s Hospital

Group Captain Catherine McGregor AM
Australian Defence Force, transgender writer and activist

Prof Rob Moodie
Deputy Head of School and Professor of Public Health at the University of Melbourne's School of Population and Global Health

Fiona Patten MP
Leader of the Reason Party (founder of the Sex Party)
Member of the Victorian Legislative Council for the Northern Metropolitan Region.

Amanda Smith
Radio Presenter, ABC Radio National

Professor Fiona Stanley AC
Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne

Lea Thorpe
Senior Advisor, Nous Group

Professor Susan Walker
Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Melbourne University