Lorna Fencer Napurrula was born in 1920 in Yumurrpa country, which is situated near the Granites in the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory. She passed away in 2006. Her main dreamings are Yarla, Wapirti and Marlujarra. These Dreamings entitle her to paint subjects such as the bush yam (sweet potato), “ngalatji” (little white flower), bush tomato, caterpillar, wallaby and certain men’s stories including boomerangs. The Yarla (Yam) Dreaming depicts the track where traditionally women looked for Yams. The track originates from the Granites region and travels north toward Lajamanu. The caterpillar dreamings are usually bright deipictions of leaves eaten by the caterpillar.
Lorna Fencer Napurrula lived predominantly at Lajamanu and occasionally in Katherine with her extended family. She was a senior Warlpiri (language/tribal law group) woman which meant she had the authority to “paint up” the decorative body designs for ceremonies. Lorna began painting on canvas for the Warnayaka Art Centre, Northern Territory in 1986. Her work developed into her signature style with extravagant, thick bright paint and abstracted versions of her dreaming. This style caught the attention of art collectors from around the world and giving rise to comparisons with the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye.
Lorna typically painted with acrylics on primed Belgian linen or unstretched cotton duck. Her artifacts include coolamons, kudurru (fighting sticks), quartz rocks and slate.
Lorna is included in Murdoch Court at the National Gallery of Victoria and was invited to participate in the triennial 1998 John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize. In 1997 Lorna was granted the Gold Coast City Art Award.
Major exhibitions of her artwork include a 1988 ensemble exhibition “People, Place, and Art” held at the Hilton International Hotel in Adelaide, South Australia. In 1991 her work was included in a group exhibition “Aboriginal Art” shown in the Australian Embassy Washington, USA. In the same year, Lorna was included in “Aboriginal Art & Spirituality,” curated by Rosemary Crumlin & Anthony Knight in Canberra. In 1994 Lorna exhibited in “Yarpakurlangu Wirrkardu” alongside a range of emerging artists from Batchelor College in Tennant Creek, NT.
By 1996 Lorna saw her works displayed in the group exhibition “All About Art” at the Alcaston Gallery in Melbourne followed by the “Me Warlpiri” exhibition in 1997. In the same year, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, hosted “Women’s Body Paint” and “Paint Up Big: Walpiri Women’s Art From Lajamanu” group exhibitions. The National Gallery acquired some of Lorna’s finest works following the exhibitions. Growing popularity increased Lorna’s profile during 1998 and gave rise to a solo exhibition of her work, “Yulyulu,” at Alcaston House Gallery in Melbourne. In 1999 Lorna Fencer Napurrula was featured in a mixed exhibition at Gondwana Gallerie in Rome, Italy and the Tjinyipjila Exhibition at the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C., USA. As recent as late 1999 her works featured in the Indigenous Art of the Dreamtime held in the main foyer of the United Nations Building New York, USA.