Today (2 September) marks a special week for talented identical twins, Peter and Kevin Burke, who have never let their intellectual disabilities hold them back in life.
They not only celebrate their 67th birthday, but it also marks the opening of their joint art display at Red Point Arts Gallery at Port Kembla.
“Their art, much like their personalities, is very different but I think the best way to describe them is they are both happy, funny, caring and charming,” says carer, Daniele.
Kevin is a flow artist with a love of colour bursts, while Peter prefers building small structures, usually trees, with wool pom-poms.
When asked to comment on his brother’s art Peter says, “It’s cool, but mine is better”.
He is joking, of course, because the two brothers have supported and encouraged each other throughout their lives.
They were born in Gerringong and have two sisters. Peter is the older twin by a few minutes.
They live in a share house in supported independent living accommodation with Life Without Barriers, and both have part-time jobs. Kevin works in Flagstaff’s laundry and Peter mows lawns.
“They have a lot of independence, but they also have the support of a team of carers who help with some tasks like dispensing medication and transport,” says Daniele.
“They get on well together at home but, like all brothers, they occasionally argue over little things,” she adds.
“My job is to watch TV while Kevin cooks,” Peter pipes up.
When they are not working or making art, they take turns at walking their dog, Harley, whose name is tattooed on Peter’s arm.
“They have always done some form of art, but they started to really focus on their skills during the COVID-19 epidemic to pass the time,” says Daniele.
Kevin pours water-based paint into a cup and drips it on to the canvas, creating curves and swirls with intense colour.
“It’s my own technique,” he says proudly.
Peter uses cardboard wrapped in wool to create his pom-poms, which are then modelled into different structures, usually trees.
Red Point Arts Centre member, Kerry Butt, described the pair as inspirational.
“I feel so happy that we can help promote their art. You look at their stuff and you just want to smile,” she says.
“It’s lovely they can be there for each other, and credit to their carers who are all so supportive.”
Kevin and Peter had their first exhibition last year at the Old Wollongong Court House at Belmore Basin.
“One of Kevin’s paintings sold for $150 and he donated his share of the sales to Baptist Care for their school breakfast program,” says Daniele.
When asked where they would be celebrating their birthday, they both jumped straight in.
“At the pub,” they answered in unison, with a gleeful giggle.
The exhibition is at Red Point Arts Gallery, 100 Wentworth Street, Port Kembla until 21 September from 10 am – 2 pm.