How This Queer First Nations Artist Is Exploring His Identity Through Storytelling

On this month’s Australian Rolling Stone magazine, native flora including waratah and wattle adorn the cover. Artist and proud Yuwi, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander man, Dylan Mooney was commissioned by the institutional magazine to commemorate the 200 greatest Australian albums of all time. 

It’s fitting that an Indigenous person’s art was featured for the edition showcasing Australian culture. 

So, how did a boy from Mackay in North Queensland go on to illustrate the front cover of Rolling Stone magazine? 

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A graduate of Griffith University, Dylan studied at the Queensland College of Art but the path to higher education wasn’t always clear. 

I didn’t know what I wanted to study. I never knew there was an art college in Brisbane and I didn’t even know they had an art degree made especially for Indigenous peoples,” says Dylan. 

“I think for me, speaking with other Indigenous artists helped me find my way through uni and what I wanted to make.”

It was at Griffith University that Dylan was able to learn new forms of art. 

I first started out in drawing and never really ventured past that cause I was a bit nervous to try new mediums. But once I became more confident, I started doing printmaking and after a while, I ventured into digital drawing where I just kept practising my skills.”

Dylan recounts a highlight of his studies at the Queensland College of Art, a masterclass where students learn from leaders in the industry, “My favourite part of studying was meeting new people and making friends. I also enjoyed meeting established Indigenous artists like Tony Albert, Gordon Hookey, Judy Watson, and Richard Bell.”

Now, Dylan’s artwork is a fusion of both digital and hand-drawn illustrations. The result is a comic book-style art that captures the pride, struggle, and connection of Indigenous communities. 

The artist’s identity shines through his work. As a queer, Indigenous man, the journey of self-acceptance has helped his art reach greater heights. 

“Growing up I was always meeting new people and having conversations about identity, who we are and where we come from. This influenced my art a lot by adding in these stories of my culture, it keeps me grounded in who I am,” says Dylan.

The artist explores this culture and identity in an exhibition titled, Blak Superheroes. Showcasing at the Museum of Brisbane until April 2022, Blak Superheroes addresses and amplifies stories of representation, creating change that uplifts Indigenous people.

What matters to me the most is making sure the stories that I tell in my work are heard and making sure that I am doing right by my mob. I want to bring in the voices of my community and make sure they are at the forefront of my stories and work.”

Dylan Mooney’s Blak Superheroes Exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane.

Before Dylan was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and in an exhibition at Queensland’s premier museum, the artist got to paint alongside one of his heroes, Archibald Prize-winning artist Ben Quilty, during a university trip to the Garma Festival in East Arnhem Land.

The degree in Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art meant Dylan could explore the diversity of modern Indigenous art practice, and gain insights into contemporary culture and political art. Overall, Dylan’s studies helped him to find his niche and hone in on his already talented skills.

I found my niche at uni by researching on the theme and concepts that mattered to me and just experimenting with new mediums to help me find my own style.”

From his studies to working on murals and exhibiting in a museum, it seems that Dylan is just getting started on his journey to depict Indigenous storytelling and the queer experience. 

Making a positive impact means a lot to me, especially to my community. Being an Indigenous artist means I’m not just making work for myself but also for my mob,” says Dylan.

“I always keep this saying with me ‘Never forget who you are and where you come from.’”

If you’re feeling inspired by Dylan’s story then make your career matter with Griffith University. If you need a little more inspo, try taking this custom quiz to see what study paths would suit you.