Several sculptures at the Alexandra Gardens in Kew share familiarities with art pieces in Melbourne Churches, including Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Deepdene. These beautiful art pieces are all by the renowned (late) Mrs Leopoldine Mimovich who has shared her story of her life and her art.
The Mimovich Legacy
For many years we walked around the Alexandra Gardens in Kew, enjoying the serenity. Some days the gardens would be the hive of activity with families, other times they would be quiet enough so we could just wander through noting the plants and admiring the sculptures. I would stand and look at the sculptures for some time then walk on. What beautiful features, emotions and curiosity the faces of these sculptures held, no two were similar. Attending weddings, funerals and baptisms around Melbourne churches, I soon started to notice the particular familiarities of the art pieces that adorned some of these churches. On closer examination they were all by the renowned Mrs Leopoldine Mimovich. I always meant to try and find out more about the artist, but these were the days before the internet, and the week would progress and I would soon forget the promise I made to myself to investigate further until the next walk around the gardens or church visit.
And so the cycle went until 2001.
On a lovely autumn day in 2001, I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time and chatting with Mrs Leopoldine Mimovich at her home. We talked for hours about her life and art.
Mrs Mimovich (call me Poldi she said, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that to this lovely lady) was born in Neumarkt in the Italian Tyrol, studied sculpting in Vienna and then later at the School of Wood Sculpture in Hallstatt. She married Leo Mimovich and migrated to Australia in 1949. Their first stop was at Bonegilla Reception and Training Centre near Albury where they stayed for a short time before being moved to Royal Park Migrant Camp. Mrs Mimovich told some remarkable stories of their time there and their labour contract obligations. Initially Mrs Mimovich sewed shirts for Pelaco before working for Myer in the furniture department carving furniture. Eventually they were able to purchase their property in Kew where they set up their family home and studio. From here Mrs Mimovich flourished taking on commissions that reflected her Catholic background. Her story is now well known and documented including in a book, Tales from a Suitcase. The book was made into a television series on SBS recounting the extraordinary experiences of Australia’s post-war migrants.
What a talented artist we had living and working in our parish creating magnificent works in wood and bronze. Her paintings are to be found in many churches, schools, hospitals and parks in Australia. I believe that there is even a Crucifix at the Mawson Inter-Denominational Chapel in the Antarctic as well as the United Nations building in New York.
Sadly, Mrs Mimovich passed away on Christmas Day 2019 but her legacy lives on. We are blessed at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Deepdene where we have our very own Mrs Mimovich works of art.
During the 1970’s our then Parish Priest, Monsignor Kelly, commissioned Mrs Mimovich to create a new set of Stations for Our Lady of Good Counsel Church. Mrs Mimovich carved from Queensland Beech the current Stations you see at the church. Originally, these Stations were each set in a frame but when our church was refurbished in 2016 the Stations were removed from the frames and mounted against a copper background. On the ground each Station number is carved in granite. It is easy to get distracted when praying the Stations as one tends to look at the beautiful carvings and imagine those serene and talented hands working the rigid wood and transforming it so gracefully into something that is so beautifully unexpected.
When our churches reopen take the time to look, wonder and walk the Stations – one, two or all – alone or with a friend and discover the wonder and beauty of the art that adorns our church.