Three years with Minerva

Deidhre Wauchop AI collaborated image

In early Autumn of 2020 our neighbours waged war on us. We ended up in court in an absurd and drawn out dispute. 

This event coincided with the beginning of the pandemic. On the bright side our neighbour dispute took our attention and gave us something else to talk about and worry about in the following 3 years. 

During that period the Roman goddess Minerva was brought to my attention. I studied ancient history at school but was a bit over it after all the Greeks. Athena I knew of, but I remembered little about her. 

Richard Osman, in an episode of Pointless described Minerva as:

…the goddess of war and handicrafts

The statement tickled and hit my need for new—we were at war with our neighbours—I was crocheting 40 washcloths for an exhibition installation that never happened. Minerva (read also Athena) was my new muse.

About Minerva

Without outlining all her attributes, Minerva has a spectacular CV. Her capabilities matched my needs at the time. Goddess of strategic war, law and justice, and arts and crafts. She did a lot more too, with Ovid apparently calling her the “goddess of a thousand works”. 

Back in the day, naive mortal Arachne (potentially the ‘Karen’ of ancient times) came to Minerva’s attention for being excessively arrogant. Minerva apparently tried to settle their dispute in an ancient neighbourly way but Karen wouldn’t be in it—so, after some competitive weaving, Minerva killed her, then brought her back to life, then turned her into a spider—which probably seemed fair at the time because she was so rude and prideful.

Other Minerva attributes include incredible bravery, and a love of owls and hellebores. I love hellebores, love our local powerful owl/s and needed a lot of courage. 

About the neighbour dispute

The story of the dispute takes three years to tell so I’ll spare you all the detail. 

In order to survive psychologically, emotionally and financially I had to learn about the law. I researched relevant legislation, the hierarchy of courts, and the processes, protocols and artefacts of the legal system. Our case was managed and heard in a NSW superior court. I read and reread the legislation relevant to the jurisdiction of this court.

Caselaw was particularly fascinating to me. On the face of it, our case was like no others to date so there was a relentless search to find precedents, or at least cases that were in some way analogous.

I collected 5 GB of research and written material on my hard drive and many hundreds of web links and emails. A lot of reading and a lot of writing. Reminded me of doing a masters degree.

You won’t be surprised when I tell you that there are some amazing people in the legal system and there are some whose practice and demeanour underwhelms. We were lucky to find complete professionals to be on our side. Together with our legal team, who were prepared to work with us in a collaborative kind of way, we made it to the end. 

We won.

But there were some really terrifying moments and just when it got really difficult we had a devastating landslide below our house which damaged our rear garden (the subject of much of my digital work to that date), and cracked our fish pond so we had to let our lovely fish go to a new home.

You don’t want to have a dispute with your neighbours that ends up in court—everyone says so. But in our defence we tried to meet our neighbours in the middle from the outset. We were being unfairly accused and we rightly fought. 

Arachne-style hubris prevented our neighbours from agreeing to a settlement that would have been a far better outcome for them than the judgement they received. 

What’s the point of sharing all this?

Sometimes you just have to accept that you have to veer from your creative path. These circumstances forced that veering.

I managed little in the way of creative output in the last three years. That fact was unsettling. I began to think that I would never paint again and that I would only ever dabble around the edges of my digital work imaginings. I did keep knitting and crocheting but the utilitarian design focus wasn’t enough to satisfy the itch.

But when we won our case, I bounced back with new energy. I’m painting again and have found a new cool collaborator (at the risk of anthropomorphising new friend) in the AI world to support my digital work. There’s a whole treatise to be written about art in the AI world. More to come on that in a little bit.

Another thing about Minerva I didn’t know was the notion of ‘Invita Minerva’, that is a lack of inspiration, or writer’s or artist’s block is the result of Minerva being ‘unwilling’. 

While I was veering, Minerva was a fine mentor and coming out the other side she is not only still present, but willing and actively inspiring.

🙏 Minerva


My library

‘You are what you read’ said Oscar Wilde.

I don’t read much at the moment but at certain periods in my life I have read and read. There are four authors in my library that stand out as being influential over time:

  • Fay Weldon (in the 70s and 80s)
  • Margaret Atwood (90s and 00s)
  • David Mitchell (00s)
  • Haruki Murakami (90s to now)

Here’s a short thought about why I have read and read these particular authors. Apart from the fact that each author employs unique narrative structures and appeals to me visually, even filmically—many of their works are dystopian [definition: fictional writing used to explore social and political structures in ‘a dark, nightmare world.’] Their surreal spin on the world sparks my imagination.

I’m not reading at the moment—sadly, no need—dystopian society no longer needs to be imagined, just negotiated and somehow lived.

Gems in my reference library

But this post is really about the heroes of my library that I have used for inspiration for art, design and art direction since college days—the art and reference books that I return to again and again. The books that offer up something new at every glimpse. The books that soothe my scanner’s itch.

Here are four of my favourites:

J.G. Heck The Complete Encyclopedia of Illustration 1851 (Plate 7 Various Planetary systems)

This treasured tome has engravings illustrating mathematical, scientific, botanical, geographic, architectural and technological features known and recorded pre-modernism.


Japanese Design Motifs 1972 (front cover)

I love the abstraction of (predominantly) natural forms and the roundel in these family crests. I adopted the kikyōmon as part of my signature on art and craft works after our Japanese friend and guide, Ota-San said it would be OK to use it. The kikyō or balloon flower has personal significance for me.


Barbara Radice Memphis 1985

Memphis ideas, style and design was the 80s for me. What was not to love about the practice of using sign systems, styles, colours and decorative surfaces without concern for coherence or function? Apparently Memphis is having a bit of a resurgence.


Alexander Wied Bruegel 1980

The enigma that is Pieter Bruegel continues to fascinate me. His paintings are loaded with movement, fine detail and quirky surprises. Look into the crowded landscapes; read the genre narrative with allegorical meaning; acknowledge the minutiae of his time and culture, and be suspicious of the representation of utopia.

Which brings us back to dystopia. While Rome burns I’m making pretty pictures.


My SPIN exhibition opens 2 May 2019 at Creative Space Curl Curl. This is a joint exhibition with ICONIC by Michelle Arnott.