You are delicate enough, you are strong enough, 1510 x 2020mm, pastel, charcoal, graphite on paper, 2016
I’m honoured to be described in this beautiful piece of writing around queer community, and the actions and doing that make it, small and significant and many as they are. Kassie is a gifted weaver of truths, politics and reflection, and I really recommend reading this piece that shed light and value on LGBTIQ community through intimate moments and actions remembered.
“She is adorned in the loud and sparkly, like a beacon of lost femininity that evaded the stake. I gently pass my old school friend over to her, from hands to hands, and they sit and they talk in the sanctuary as paper flutters over their heads like spirits.”
Photo credit – Tash Helasdottir-Cole
In 2017 I made a publication about We Don’t Have to Be The Building, a major public art installation shown on Courtenay Place, Wellington, in 2016.
The work was made to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Homosexual Law Reform this year, and looked at the past, present & future of queer female sexualities and activism. In researching for this project, I worked in the Lesbian and Gay Archives NZ and I created various story-sharing events, so that I could listen to and weave together many different people’s experiences for the work. I interviewed people directly, and ran workshops called Let’s Talk About Sex. My intention was to ensure that the voices and stories not held in the archives could also be heard and acknowledged.
More than 100 people contributed in some way to the colourful, messy, bodily, glitter-speckled assemblages that resulted. The publication is an attempt to capture the methodology and experience of making the project, which was based in fully informed consent, and exchange of offers. It includes my own writing on the process, images and collages, and an essay about the project by Ellie Lee-Duncan.
It’s free to download, and I’d love to hear what you think!
I have been offered a solo show in Sydney in August 2018. This will be my first solo show in Australia, and a wonderful opportunity to share my practice with curators, gallerists and a new audiences. I’ve been invited to give two artist lectures, and plan to show new sculptures and drawings as precious relics of the creative process, in a show called “What we bring back”.
Getting the work and myself there is going to be costly, and so, as well as funding applications, I am running an open studio with lots of beautiful small works for sale. I only open the studio to the public once every couple of years, so it’s always a special time.
It’s this Saturday, 24th Feb from 11am – 3pm. Come visit!
In 2017 I started teaching my own classes, in my own way. It’s really all about process, permission, and expression. I will teach you skills and techniques, but it’s more than that. It’s the privilege of being a guide for you to find you own way of drawing, through a series of guided exercises and experiments. I love it, and it feels like another part of my practice to develop the teaching I’ve been doing in a tertiary context for the last 7 years, into something that is much more Sian shaped. Interested? Get in touch because I’m running a range of classes this year. The first one is here:
Here’s some drawing from the last class…
And here’s some feedback:
“There was a LOT of ideas and methods covered that I’d never have thought of alone, and have been able to take at least a chunk of that away and apply to what I do away from the classes. I have attended beginner drawing classes before where I was shown techniques like measuring, line, value, etc, and that is all extremely important and valuable, and needs tons of practice (for me at least). What you put into this course was the part that turns mechanical lifeless drawings into something personal, something intimate, and eventually something of real value. That’s not possible to read in a book, no amount of words would cover it as well as 4 short sessions did, and I’m sure that is only the beginning. What worked for me was that the approach of this class was so different to others on offer.”
It is the last day of 2017 here in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and as usual, I am taking some time to reflect on this year. Usually I do this with pen and paper, but this year I thought I’d share it with you here.
It’s been a year of big change, with some serious illness (five bouts of flu) meaning a lot of time spent at home, thinking and developing new ways of working that aren’t quite so draining energetically. A lot of that has been drawing energy that I’ve been expending far outside of myself, back in; a process of gathering everything closer.
Body is a mighty teacher, and this year she has shown me that the support and appreciation I need will come through continuing to build a practice that brings people together in various ways through expressive art making. At the beginning of the year I spent a week inviting people to come and be drawn on one long 10 metre piece of paper at Toi Tu in Auckland. Conversations, relationships, connections…
This work was part of an exhibition that showed a range of works that I’ve been developing around intimacy, starting with drawing myself, then developing systems to support fully informed consent around other drawing other peoples’ stories and images. How to ask properly, respect and honour the gift of people letting you look, listen and be together.
My next project was to ritually let go of my role as a contract lecturer at Massey School of Fine Arts, where I have been for the last 7 years teaching drawing, sculpture and making processes. I wanted to honour the relationships I have valued, as well as give a significant gift to the students, particularly those grappling with issues around gender identity, cultural identity, and sexualities. The show ‘Te Aho Mano / A Thousand Strands, showed work from my Asia New Zealand residency in Bengaluru, India, as well as new work and collaborations with Anahera Gildea and Leilani A L’iga Pua. You can hear those here:
Anahera and I ran workshops where students and staff were invited to discuss what they are working on, what helps them to say what they need, and what holds them back. These conversations mainly focused on feminism and how we can stick together, as well as new models for critique.
Full disclosure and acknowledgement has been a theme for me for some time, and in the show I included my book collection of inspirational and foundational writers for me. I was delighted that the books were re-ordered every time I cam into the show, telling me that people were using the comfy seats and having a read.
I was determined to honour and finish We Don’t Have to Be The Building in 2017, which I did by taking the works to Auckland as posters with the help of Pride and Phantom Billstickers.
With the support of many of you pre-purchasing copies, I also made a publication about the project, including colour posters of the final work, lots of reflection on the process, and an essay by Ellie-Lee Duncan. Thank-you to everyone who made this possible, including Creative Communities funding and The Armstrong and Arthur Charitable Trust for Lesbians.
The publication was launched in November at the HELP fundraising exhibition, where I also spoke and showed works in support of the cause of supporting survivors of sexual violence. As part of the week I ran a drawing workshop upstairs at Thistle Hall where we used drawing to express some of our feelings and responses to the #metoo campaign.
As part of my work revolution, I’ve brought my teaching practice closer to my art practice, and begun teaching my own workshops. I was delighted to be funded by Toi Poneke to trial a six week Queer and Trans* drawing class, building community and creativity together.
The success of this told me to keep going, and two more rounds have been supported by Rainbow Wellington, one still to come in 2018!
I’ve also been teaching at Gordon Harris my Expressive Drawing class, which I will run again in 2018, along with Life drawing at Toi Poneke, and Where do you get your ideas from? Excuse the glare, all the drawings were proudly hung in the front window of the shop!
Some drawings found their homes with buyers, including these ones:
And some others featured in art awards around the country, including the Parkin Drawing Award;
So that’s some highlights! In 2018 I am looking forward to more teaching, developing new collaborative workshops and relationships. I will be working on some commissions, some exciting shows, and ways to keep sharing my practice. Happy new year, may it bring you everything you need.
I’m putting together some thoughts and works for a show to fundraise for Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP, working with survivors of sexual abuse and their whanau.
I’m writing labels, and thinking / feeling through these works:
All of my Club works were made in response to the violence and abuse that we experience on the street and in public places. As women, queer and trans* communities, non-binary people, who are targeted
with judgements, assumptions and worse. When I was stopped on the street by a group of men and verbally abused, I began to wonder what a queer, revolutionary response or defense would look like. I imagined my friends, lovers and communities appearing in drag, as punks, activists, femmes, heros, in glittery heels and shabby glory. These clubs were what I imagined we might carry; to resist these forces of fear and shame with pride, colour and surety in our own being and collective existence.
I am working on this new publication about We Don’t have to Be The Building. It will be produced as loose leaf pages, so that people can have artwork on their walls for $40. It’s always important to me that folk can access my work on a variety of levels, so this is part of that effort. As ever, I’m enjoying the process, so thought I’d share some of it here. It will be launched end Nov, if you’d like to pre-order one, let me know!
I’m in the process of making my second publication about a project. Both of them have been to do with buildings, and process, and how to create and hold things together. The first, a physical building, the second, the building we make together by how we stick together. The structures that we form through solidarity, love and connection.
Both are using the same method; assemblage, complex, sticky and with each piece related actively. You can read one way, and then the other. This is the best way I can make sense.
I found this piece of writing and images from the first one; Inhabitance, so here they are… if you’d like to pre-purchase a copy of the second one, about We Don’t Have to Be The Building, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Meeting points of nature and human maintenance in buildings and the built environment. I walk around to see what I find in the neighbourhood. Gutters are rich with trees, drips have made drawings down the side of buildings, and posters have made a mummy of a house. There is a bin which has been papered to make it look weatherboarded. Drawings are everywhere.
I found the information about this place in the archives. It was owned by a woman and she wanted all of the best materials used. The best concrete, rimu and roofing. Now there are holes everywhere made by borer and when I bang a nail into the wall dust falls and falls. Without maintenance there is accretion. This is a scene where human action plays against inaction; because nothing has been done these patterns of mould and falling paper pile up. And my drawing repeats them, extends them, makes them clearer.
Someone broke the window in a shop next door. I looked in and saw that there were flags in there. I hadn’t noticed them before. Is this what I would do if I broke in? Is this what I am doing in here? Leaving a mark, leaving many marks. Leaving a sign of inhabitance and noticing what was found here.
The tap drips. The bath is accumulated with water which has stained it brown. So what would I accumulate here? There is colour which drips also and builds up. The glitter in the bath, and the pastel which is imitating the spread of mould on the walls. There is a kind of communication here.
Things hold on, and things hold in. Lines are travelling through this space becoming tight and slack, falling into puddles or holding doors closed. Paper, wool and wood all serve the same purpose,
a structure within a structure which is holding its own
I have been trying to figure out what the function of these objects is. Outside a gallery, outside. Close to a body, yours and mine. I lent some sculptures to a theatre group for a piece they were making. They came to my studio, and when I saw them cradle these objects, a flash of something came across me. It’s like a message too fast to see; a glimpse of the sense I am seeking. They held them like living beings; like live beings. Alive, to live, tricky and changing, processes halted mid stream so they still look like they are growing.
I have been trying to figure out what I have been doing with my life; what I have spent my time practicing and perfecting. What is this craft, and what use is it?
Recently a friend died of breast cancer. There’s nothing that makes you feel as fucking useless as serious illness. All of our human efforts small in comparison to the inexorable passage from this body to the next place. The huge wave. I was in the studio one day, and just felt so strongly to give her a sculpture. It’s not often I do this- I think people should be able to choose what they want to live with visually. But in this case, it felt like all I could do. I gave her Femme Club, a glittery, encrusted, lumpy weapon for the spirit. How we resist what we cannot change in poetic ways. How we try to offer each other strength and hope, beauty and the fierce moments we need to survive every day.
I started making these clubs when I was verbally assaulted and stopped on the street by a gang of men, one of whom pulled out his dick to show me he was a man. At the same time my genderqueer lover was being teased and bullied in their workplace and both of us felt like getting smaller, as well as fighting, standing our ground. These objects were like talisman, ritual objects, my attempts to make the internal battle visual, external, physical. To make it real. Here it is, it looks like this for me, and maybe it can help you too.
The way through. The ways things come through from that side to this; through matter, lumpy, drippy and complicated. Barely held together, trying to get born in the most difficult ways.
We have always needed objects to remind us: memento mori to remind us that we will die, and flourishes to remind us to live.
Recently I watched a video interview recorded with a witch, Pam Grossman, who lives in New York City. I watched it in an auditorium in City Gallery, and afterwards there was a live Skype where we could ask her questions. I asked her how we can keep ourselves safe when we bring these things into these most unsafe environments. The gallery, the institutions, the white and hard spaces. How do we bring the guts and fire and tangles that lift us through and keep us safe? How can we be brave enough to do what we need, and what we know, what our ancestors knew and passed down in their bones and ours. My acupuncturist told me that week that in Chinese medicine there is no distinction between the mind and the belly, the emotions and the bones. That they are literally the same things, and everything holds everything else. Your bones are made of your fear and your guts are a tangle of your love. Maybe the body, the matter we are here in, has some connection like this to the matter we make from.
I said to Pam the witch that in this country, the indigenous people have vast knowledge and wisdom over how to protect and bring things from the spirit world to the human one. I have been blessed to be supported by tangata whenua in many of my openings, making the safe paths with ancient and powerful knowledge and practice. Other times I have made it up, feeling for my psychic ancestors and the resonances that come through. Asking for help from people who can welcome me in when there is no-one and I feel like a vampire who literally cannot cross the threshold without an invite. I saw it today with a five year old. Asked to go inside my home because it was cold, she said no I would rather go and be in the car. I thought hey, of course, she hasn’t been invited in, and jumped up saying I’ll walk you, I’ll show you the way, you are welcome. Children know these things and say so much more easily.
We all have something we know. One person who welcomed me said in Chinese culture we would sweep out the space, so they did. They brought me crystals, and the other person brought me a flower, and we banged the silent, white walls.
I asked Pam, what would you advise to keep ourselves safe? She said throw a circle. Decide what your intention is for the space. Ask from the seven directions. And make sure you have eaten enough food, meditate. Keep yourself grounded so whatever swirls around you, you are grounded.
Always this balance between the body and the spirit, one a gateway to the other and both the same and kept separate and put through the processes that used to be done by a church. But witchcraft is outside the church.
I think, I have always known this, and I’ve been taught it again. Pray, make physical, make the path, maintain the path, breathe, feed the people.
We need objects to take us through and carry us back. We need them to protect us, to remind us and reflect us.
Could it be that this practice is a kind of medicine?
Could it be that these objects are a kind of poultice?
I am finding out.