Opening today at the Justice and Police Museum in Sydney is Wicked Women, described as a playful, subversive and wickedly sexy exhibition of new works by prize-winning artist Rosemary Valadon. Inspired by the ‘bad-girl’ persona from the vibrant early to mid-20th-century pulp fiction and film noir styles, the artist invited 17 contemporary female personalities to take on the roles of sinful sirens and pose as a ‘femme fatale’ from that time.

Each of the portrait sitters was carefully selected for being a leader in their respective fields, spanning entertainment, journalism, academia, literature and the law. The Wicked Women portrait series includes some of Australia’s highest profile contemporary female figures including Tara Moss, Rachel Ward, Sonia Kruger, Ros Reines – and Larissa Behrendt.

Says Larissa (writer and lawyer), “I thought those old-style covers had a kind of glamour – a little cheesy but also quite sexist. I knew how powerful Rosemary’s ability was to capture the femininity and power of women from her earlier work and I was sure she would do something that would empower women, would subvert the underlying misogyny of the original pictures. So I chose one where a woman was taking control – as opposed to being a victim’.

In 2009 Valadon was the first artist-in-residence at the Historic Houses Trust Justice and Police Museum in Sydney, where she researched the history and depictions of women and crime, in particular the place of the ‘femme fatale’ in pulp fiction and society. The artist explored the Museum’s extensive collection, including early 20th century weapons, court transcripts and evidence, as well as crime scene photographs. She also visited the Museum’s exhibition at that time Femme Fatale: The Female Criminal where she was struck by the vast contrast between the glamorous depictions of women in the pulp fiction covers and the reality of the mug shots of the real female criminals from eras past.

Program includes:

Dress to Kill on 1 February – the Justice and Police Museum transforms into a house of ill repute.
She Coudn’t be Good, 15 March – a titillating panel on the virtues of being a wicked woman.
Murder by the Book, 21 April – Learn the secrets of crime writing.

Presented by the Historic Houses Trust of NSW, opens 20 October 2012.

Where: The Justice and Police Museum, cnr Phillip and Albert Streets, Sydney

Tickets: $10 general, $5 concession
Telephone: 02 9252 1144