For years, an “utterly absurd and totally sexy” sculpture located in her in-laws’ garden captivated Netflix Australia’s director of content, Que Minh Luu: an anthropomorphic ceramic cockatoo with “a solid rack” sitting in repose on a beach towel, enjoying a bucket of hot chips.
“Every time I saw her, she just made me smile.”
Luu’s affection for the figure didn’t go unnoticed. Her in-laws eventually gave it to her as a surprise birthday gift. “Admittedly, I had always hoped they’d leave it to me in their will, but when they gave it to me for my birthday a few years back, it was just the best present ever. It still fills me with joy every time I see it.”
The piece, made by artist Silvia D’Aviero as part of her advanced diploma in ceramics in 2012, has a “quintessentially 80s” look to Luu.
“[The] classic Australian symbolism of it is just so funny to me: the epitome of the Aussieness I wanted to embody when I was a kid.”
In a way, she says, it feels “very white Australia” and of a certain time, but it’s this “guileless” depiction of a sun-soaked larrikin lifestyle that appeals to her sense of humour and makes her feel “almost patriotic”.
“I might be over-intellectualising her a little bit, but I often wonder if I showed her to someone who wasn’t Australian, if they’d understand it in the same way.”
Beyond sentimental renderings of a bygone Australia, Luu says the cocky’s laissez-faire vibe is still “totally aspirational”.
“She’s so unpretentious. Just out there [with] nary a care in the world, celebrating her body and eating a bucket of hot chips. What’s not to love? We should all try to be this sexy cockatoo.”
The playful confidence of the work has also helped Luu define her taste. “I have a lot of respect for art, but for a long time I didn’t know what I liked. Sometimes I felt a bit unequal to the ideas presented in ‘high’ art. But I’ve realised when art doesn’t take itself too seriously, I really connect to it.”
Luu is now determined to unearth the rest of the collection, which she is told includes a few more cockatoos, as well as an emu and a kangaroo with a crown in its pouch, representing the reclamation of sovereignty.
“I’m going to make it my life’s mission to track the others down and bring them all together. I don’t think there’s anyone they could mean more to than me.”
This piece was amended on 9 January 2023 to attribute the sculpture to its creator Silvia D’Aviero, and correct its provenance.