“Rabbit girl.” That’s what they called her on the street. She’d bring them into her bedroom when they were kits, pop them on her bed and drown in their fluffy bunny beauty. They were always silent as she snuck them inside and there were sometimes up to 17 snuggling on her bed at one time. Unbeknown to her parents.
The young Janine Daddo was bunny mad. She still is slightly buck-and-doe kooky. She got her first rabbit, Tootsie, when he was six weeks old after he’d been rejected by his mother, and his blue eyes and pale fluffy feet bewitched her as she fell beneath his spell. She was 12. She explains: “He was a beautiful big-eared masculine rabbit. He followed me around and slept in my bed. When I brought him home from my girlfriend’s house, Dad made him a hutch from an old A-frame swing set, corrugated iron and mesh, which he dug four feet into the ground. I bought another rabbit, an albino, and they had babies. Within 12 months I had 17 rabbits and we’d built a colony of tunnels. Dad put a tiny torch on the end of a wire, which went down into the burrows so we could see what was going on. I began showing them at the cavy shows. The bunnies would sit on cushions or carpets and I’d brush them. Just like a cat or dog show, I suppose. Yep. I’m the original rabbit girl.”
If you know anything about Janine Daddo’s art, you probably know that bunnies feature heavily whether in her paintings or in her sculptural works. From the days when she used to sell her rabbits for $2 to the kids around the corner and carry her own to a show in a rabbit carry-all, which had been converted from a bird cage, Alice in Wonderland’s main man of adventure with the big ears has always held a soft padded spot in her heart. She continues: “I just love them. I spent four years showing rabbits, sometimes six or seven times a year, and I remember it cost me 50 cents to enter. It was so exciting getting the certificates. When Tootsie died of a stroke at nine years old it was over. He was such a great buck. You know German people often have bunnies as pets, and when I went to visit some of my German relatives they had massive big rabbits almost the size of dogs. That’s what I’d like. When my dog goes, I’d like to have a studio rabbit with soft little feet.”
In the meantime, Janine will keep on painting her cottontails camouflaged in the garden, their faces peering from within flowers silently as they keep her secrets. She’ll also continue to sculpt her rusted steel “tumble bunnies”, ideal for standing guard in the garden just in case there’s an adventure to be had. Just go ask Alice.
Check out Janine’s bunnies on Instagram @janinedaddo or pop in to Manyung Gallery Group, Sorrento, Flinders, Mount Eliza and Malvern. www.manyunggallery.com.au