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 email@example.com
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.
‘We Don’t Have to Be the Building’ (2016) researched diverse community stories about sexuality and activism, resulting in assemblage art and writing in the lightboxes on Courtenay Place, Wellington.
I’m now creating a beautiful publication that you can own and put on your wall, and keep to remember, or get to know the project. It will consist of:
8 A3 posters, of all 16 panels of the final work, printed on 150gsm paper
30 pages of process writing, images of the process, action sheets and reflections on making the project
A commissioned essay
All beautifully presented in a box for you to keep together, or choose your favourites to put on your wall.
If you’d like to go on the list to pre-purchase one, please let me know. They are $40 each as pre-sales and will likely cost a bit more after that, so grab one now!
This drawing was selected for the 2017 Parkin Drawing award, and is currently being exhibited at The Academy of Fine Arts on Wellington waterfront. All the finalists are here:
Why we do a thing. What we mean to do. The reasons that unfold as we do it.
Intention is not always clear to an artist. Sometimes it is more of an energy, a will to discover, create or express. Other times it’s like an itch, or irritation that drives a form of exploration you really don’t want to make. But you make it, because it says you should.
Sometimes, intention unfolds itself as you are going along – ah, that is what I meant. For me the materials themselves have their own intentions, as do the finished works. Like children, they don’t belong to me once they have left the scope of my body or making. Mybe they never did, but once they are out in the world, they have to stand on their own two feet.
There’s that saying; the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What we thought we were doing, but then what we actually did, and the effect of that. Intention is often an excuse used by those who cause harm to others; ‘Oh but that wasn’t my intention.’ So intention becomes slippery. Intention has to be responsive, and responsible.
I have thought of what I am doing lately as making a series of offers. Offers that you can accept or refuse, but made with an open hand, and ready to hear whatever response is made. My intention is to find things out, and see what creative practice and art can actually do in the world. Make itself useful!
Thinking about intention has made me realise that my main intention has always been to trust the process. I don’t quite see the point of doing something if you already know what will happen, or what you want to happen. Trust for me is a process of yielding; to accident, happenstance, other people, magic. Trust is also a revolutionary process: To trust in our own instincts, bodies and desires; witches got burned for that. And it’s still a thing, isn’t it. There is a mind and body bending amount of telling, everywhere we look and listen, even when we don’t want to, about how your body should be, look, behave, feel, respond. And what is the intention of that? It’s always felt like control to me.
So what happens when the body is not controlled? When it is allowed to be, and find out, and explore, and play? What happens when the materials it uses are allowed to do the same? My intention has been to find out. And I’ve been told off all the way through. When I was studying, trying to find ways to write about a process that I was living; questioning and rejecting the possibility and value of being able to be ‘objective’, I was told, come on, you’re a clever girl, can’t you just ‘write a straight version?’
This is not a straight version.
I’ve decided to offer up a new opportunity: Commission me to make an expressive portrait of and with you.
I made a series of these during my recent project We Don’t Have to Be The Building;
And would love to make more….
The magic of these is that they are active depictions of you. They are how you look, but also how you feel. They are like a collage on one sheet of paper, with you choosing the poses, moving and grooving, and me capturing some of that individual energy on paper.
People I have drawn before said other people came through too; a beloved grandma creating a warm shadow, or a younger self, still present today.
Making the drawing is an intimate and special process. I draw you at my studio, and you can give me feedback part way through on what is missing, or what you’d like me to add. I can also draw from photographs to layer up other people, places or objects.
I make drawings with charcoal, pencil, graphite and pastels. They can be black and white, or have colours added. The process is full of risk and excitement, and presence. It’s a live adventure to see what will come through, and a really creative process we can enjoy together.
How much will this cost me?
I’ve decided to charge for these drawings on an hourly basis. Which means that you will:
- Get a much cheaper drawing than you usually would!
- Be in control of how much it costs because we decide together how many layers and therefore how much time it will take.
We can also negotiate size and price so that it’s something you are comfortable with at the beginning. I also do some forms of exchange for things I need on occasion, so get in touch and we can discuss options.
A drawing like the ones pictured will involve a two hour sitting, or me working from photos, and will cost a total of $450.00
When can I book in for a session?
As soon as you like! We will work out a time that suits us both, and book you in.
My studio is in central Wellington, and has some wheelchair accessibility with a lift, but it has a step and heavy door on the ground floor so some assistance would be necessary, which I can provide.
Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
I did two interviews; one with Artists Alliance, one with Phantom Billstickers, about this project. Read more here:
Intimacy Stages / Active Empathy – a show of feminist, gender queer embodied drawings, sculptures and drawing sessions. Studio One – Toi Tu, at 1 Ponsonby Rd, Auckland, open 11am-7pm for three days, 23, 24th, 25th Feb, 2017.
Tonight Weds 22nd Feb we opened this show of drawings and sculptures at Studio One Toi Tu at 1 Ponsonby Rd, Auckland. It is a collection: drawings from We Don’t Have to Be The Building, from Self-Portrait, and also new works. When I started collecting the works to bring, some of of them said I’m not ready. So we spent more time together, layering our bellies, finding our knots. We rubbed and added and tore and lay together. All of the self-portraits of all of the beings, here now.
For the next three days I will be drawing 14 people who will sit with me, move, breathe, be. I’ll draw whatever they offer me, and however they are. It is another form of intimacy through this drawing and creative process. It is an honour.
When you do not see your body, desire or sexuality represented, it is imperative that you represent it yourself, and as honestly and in as much of its complexity as you possibly can. This show at Auckland’s Studio One brings together individual reflection and collaborative making in a mass of drawings, experiments and trials. Acknowledging the complexity of our genders in queer, feminist and gender queer bodies.
Resisting censorship and taking risks, because intimacy involves so much risk; the pressure; the invitation to strangers; the trust; the vulnerability; the offer; the hope are on offer.