Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Unrelated activities: Hollis Chatelain and the Kaipara Sculpture Trail

Apart from the arrival of our container and ensuing chaos and endless rearrangements, recent highlights have been a trip to a local sculpture trail and a visit to the Auckland Patchwork and Quilters Guild. 

On Saturday I paid a visit to the February meeting of the Auckland Patchwork and Quilters Guild, partly to get to know the group as it is a large group with over 500 members encompassing the traditional to the contemporary. Around 200 members attend each monthly meeting. The advantage of such a large group become obvious when you see the library with computer terminals and scanning to keep a track of their hundreds of books,  a caterer brings (and quickly sells out of) a brilliant selection of sandwiches and homemade cakes for lunch, there are lots of activities to do during the day including a display each month by a group whose members are part of the larger group, a raffle, a members’ 'show and tell' and a members' quilt display.  The group makes and donates around 30 quilts a month for local groups such as hospitals, hospices, women’s refuges etc., all made by members of the group individually or as a group. International visitors are given a welcome and are given a gift of NZ fabric! (Much to my Mum’s embarrassment as she walked to the front for her welcome). All in all they are an active, welcoming and wide ranging group. I look forward to my next visit in April when I will be the speaker and in September when I will be delivering a 2 day metal textile technique workshop for them. Details will be on my ‘Out and About’ page.

Quilt by Hollis Chatelain
Baobab Forest by Hollis Chatelain

This month was a particularly special one for the Patchwork and Quilting Guild as it was a talk being given by the American Quilter Hollis Chatelain. For lots of images of Hollis’ work, it is best to see her website ( She had been teaching some members of the group for several days and the results of the workshop were hung for us to see and to chat to participants to find out more details of the technique she was using.
For her talk Hollis was considering ’The Emotion of Color’ (How it affects activism in art).
Having moved from professional photography, and having had painting as an interest then spending many years in Africa, Hollis returned to her native USA. On her return she began to express herself through painted textiles and quilts. Her first works were highly realistic versions of her photographs and memories, expressing the beauty and diversity, colour and liveliness of the place, concentrating on the people she was so in love with.  She made a conscious choice to represent the positive aspects of her time and life in Africa.  More recently she has been quilting her dreams, still in the form of realistic forms, though less littoral in composition and with a message, one which draws both on personal and world themes including social and political realities.

Quilt by Hollis Chatelain
Enough by Hollis Chatelain

Her interest in the use of colour by socially active or politically active artists began to influence her textile work. She developed interesting work using only monochrome painting and adding colour in small blocks or by the addition of thread. This style developed as a recognition of the messages and emotional consciousness of her pieces, as a recognition of the styles and colours employed by ‘activist artists’ and influenced by the method of hand colouring black and white photographs to emphasise sections of the image. She discussed achieving an emotional message in an art work and the often subconscious suggestion of colour as a message in art. Her technique helps her to evince an emotion from the viewer and has seen that colour changes the feeling of a piece and the response of the viewer.
She also questions whether art with a message needs to be ugly, harsh, jarring, unattractive or whether it is possible to draw people into your message by using beauty in activist art. Thank you Hollis.

The talk left everyone with exactly the right mix of thoughtful consideration and enjoyment of the actual works. I will have to make sure that my talk is up to scratch for April! 

Our family took a trip at my insistance, only 30 minutes over to west side of the island, to the Kaipara Coast Sculpture Trail. 

A fantail, larger than life, greets us at the beginning of the trail. A cheeky, abundant, NZ bird.
A slightly shyer and much rarer native bird, the Kiwi, forages in the undergrowth.
The Sculpture Gardens are set in a peaceful garden area on a rural property attached to a garden centre (shame!), looking out to the Kaipara Harbour. It has been open since 1988 and features selected contemporary sculptures which change annually. An apology that I don't have the names of all of the artists to give you, I am sure the sculpture gardens will be pleased to tell you more if you contact them, and there were many more pieces I could have included, these only represent the ones I took decent enough photographs of to include here!
The sculptures are discovered while strolling through the gardens, the bush track and past the ponds behind a garden centre. There is an entry charge, but it is very reasonable. 
Lovely textures on these figures growing gently out of the leaf litter.

I am a sucker for tall thin sculptures especially in gardens. These ceramic poles have impressions rolled into them of native flora.
As with any visit to an exhibition, there were pieces which we felt were more or less successful or attractive or engaging. Pleasingly there was a concentration of sculptures which were suitable for domestic settings, something that is not always the aim of displays of outdoor sculpture. Another feature which was evident was the high proportion of the pieces which utilized recycled and reused materials. 
Now I know why I collect beach glass and drink wine!

A recycled wire sculpture based on diatoms and plankton - a reminder of my marine biology training.

These simple oil barrels are transformed by the addition of Maori patterns and making lacey holes in the remaining space. This piece worked really well from a distance, close up and as you walked around it.

Capturing views and light through created negative space.

I was visiting with my teenagers, husband and parents in tow, and they all had a great time, liking, discovering and commenting on each of the 50 plus exhibits. 
Brian enjoys the view!

For now however it is back to moving boxes and wondering what the cryptic contents description really means. But, at last I have my sewing machine - which hopefully works still – and all of my materials. What I need next is some time to use them – does anyone know where I can get more time from?!

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