Gloria was born at Atnangkere Soakage, Northern Territory. In the 1970s, Gloria Petyarre was a founding member of the Utopia Women’s Batik group. With wonderful confidence, she merged the traditional iconography of the Anmatyerre onto the new medium of silk. A very innovative and dynamic artist, she exerted a great influence on others in the group. In the early 1980s, Gloria made her first painting on canvas (for CAAMA’s Summer Project exhibition) and soon developed her unique style of depicting the stories and her understanding of the traditional country. In 1995/96, she received a Full Fellowship Grant from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board of The Australia Council.
Gloria paints the traditional women business subjects, which are predominant in Utopia. In her work Gloria uses close tonal values of different colors, creating a dynamic optical intensity. Her work features powerful structural liner patterns derived from body painting, outlined with single dots. At other times the structural pattern becomes submerged in a sea of dots, the tonal relationships causing the structural pattern to dissolve into the base design of her painting.
She continues to develop her paintings to higher levels of abstraction, continually experimenting with line and colour. She says she prefers the greater freedom and control she finds with the medium of acrylic on canvas. Several of her works now have no dots at all, but bands of different color whose optical effects have evoked comparison to the British artist Bridget Riley.
Her main dreaming’s that she paints are the Mountain devil Lizard, Bean, Emu, Pencil Yam, Grass Seed and Small Brown Grass as well as the traditional body paint designs worn by women.