This month we’re focusing on a handful of excellent shows from women who are at the forefront of what they do: from overlooked Australian modernists, to an Aboriginal elder’s vision of her country, to a virtual-reality culture clash.

Making Modernism, by Georgia O’Keeffe, Grace Cossington Smith and Margaret Preston
Modernism as a movement is about breaking free of the old European conventions and seeing things anew. Heide’s new show Making Modernism draws on three very different artists to demonstrate this. Georgia O’Keeffe is one of the most significant American artists of the 20th century, famed for her sensual depictions of the New Mexico landscape. Grace Cossington Smith and Margaret Preston, however, are comparatively unknown Australians who worked at the same time, on similar principles, on the other side of the world. None of them knew each other.

Come for a rare chance to see O’Keeffe’s work in Australia, and stay to discover more about our own modernist tradition.

Making Modernism is at Heide Museum of Modern Art until February 19, 2017.
heide.com.au

Land of All, by Sally Gabori
This is a retrospective of the work of Kaiadilt woman Sally Gabori, who passed away last year. Gabori didn’t pick up a paintbrush until she was in her eighties, and had little exposure to art prior to that, so what she puts on canvas is raw, personal and far removed from any Western art tradition. Gabori’s work is sophisticated, thoughtful and bright; she used primary colours in place of the ochres and browns people may expect from Indigenous depictions of country. The pieces on show are often imposingly large and always beautiful. Come and see a completely different way of thinking about land and how we live on it.

Land of All is at NGV Australia in Federation Square until January 29.
ngv.vic.gov

Permanence, by Linsey Gosper
There’s a sense of the funereal at Fitzroy’s Strange Neighbour for the next few weeks, and not just because of the gallery’s impending closure. Gallery founder and director Linsey Gosper is a major voice in Melbourne photography; she is a photographer herself, curates exhibitions and runs Strange Neighbour. This month she closes the gallery with her own photographic exhibition, Permanence, which focuses on the statues and effigies that have guarded European cities for centuries. It’s a record of the forgotten, the overlooked and the enduring. It’s strange seeing them pinned to a wall in Fitzroy in the springtime – they open up a channel to a weatherworn, gothic world devoid of people and life, and most of them could have been taken any time in the past few hundred years. A naked stone figure reclines in a forest, covered in moss. A sphinx spits a stream of water. It’s all monochrome, and it’s all macabre and captivating.

Permanence is at Strange Neighbour until November 12.
strangeneighbour.com

Collisions, by Lynette Wallworth
Put on a VR headset and take a seat. Filmmaker Lynette Wallworth’s groundbreaking, immersive piece, Collisions, takes us to the Pilbara desert in Western Australia where, five decades ago, Martu elder Nyarri Nyarri Morgan witnessed a nuclear test. We meet the country, we meet his family, and then we are confronted with the violent eruption of nuclear light, and a billowing spectre of smoke. At the time, Morgan tells us, he thought he was meeting his gods. By the time the falling ash cascades around you – remember, this is a 360-degree, immersive film – you’re in no doubt as to whether this new technology is the best way to tell a story of such devastation and culture shock. Rather than sitting in the cinema and being told something, Wallworth makes you a participant in events. It’s a moving and innovative way of taking people into Morgan’s world.

Collisions is at ACMI until January 15. Bookings are recommended.
acmi.net.au