The Future is Bright!

There is something so heartwarming about watching young people engage and respond naturally to their surrounding environment.  Particularly if that environment is within your sphere of influence.

 Today was one of those days.  As the art specialist teacher at Sylvia Park School in Mt Wellington, Auckland, I took my Yr 8 art class to visit the Degas to Dali exhibition at the Auckland City Art Gallery.

Truthfully I didn’t know how it was going to evolve.  For some of these students it was their first visit to an art gallery.  We were to be there for just over two hours and anyone who teaches 11-12 years olds know that can be a test for one’s attention span.

Well what I witnessed today was quite simply magical.  If only I was able to record or photograph the unfolding beautiful events…(no photography etc allowed).

To begin with I had a gallery staff member remark that of all the school groups she had observed they were the best behaved.  I would have been thrilled with just that one comment but as we continued through the exhibition I began to notice the public’s reactions to the children.

The public was beginning to observe the children and how they were so engaged and stimulated by what they saw.  And as I stood and watched I couldn’t help but see why the students were making such an impact.

This is what I saw….

  • Groups of children talking about the work – asking each other what they liked about the work and getting right up close to really see ‘how’ it was ‘made’
  • Children not caring about sitting on the floor as they were too engrossed about ‘drawing’ their chosen work
  • Children so focused on the work that they had no idea people were watching them
  • Children being told to ‘hurry up’ as we were literally running out of time…yet they were far too busy looking and recording what they saw
  • Children asking the gallery staff questions about the works
  • Children complaining that we had to leave
  • Children wanting to know when we can go back!

It made the quote from Pablo Picasso that I recorded today so impertinent…

‘It took me years to paint like Rapheal, but a lifetime to paint like a child’ 

As a teacher of Art I feel the responsibility of nurturing a gift that is inherently present in EVERY child.

As I reflected back on the success of today’s trip I came to the following conclusions….

  • Preparing the children with clear expectations – they all knew that I wanted to see in their visual diaries at least two works that they personally selected, to be drawn by them and to add the artist’s details
  • Equipping them with their own individual visual diaries – they ‘looked’ and ‘acted’ like art students today walking around and recording their thoughts
  • Being passionate about what I do – I don’t even think of what I do each day as ‘work’ – in fact I can’t believe I get paid for doing something that I so love and believe in…(essentially that is what the children pick up on!)
  • Role modeling – not only do I teach art, I am an artist.  From this position you can speak with authority.
  • I absolutely believe in every one of the children I teach – I believe that they will make a positive impact to the future of our country – in the arts or other – but they carry the hope of our nation.

What a privilege to be shaping and influencing our next generation.

After today New Zealand’s future is in great hands!

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Meine Mutter – my inspiration!

It’s post Mother’s Day and after experiencing such a lovely day yesterday I really can’t go past this opportunity to honour my very own mother, ‘Senikau Dyck’ (nee Wolfgramm).   When I think of my mother I think of her giving and generous heart.  Her whole life has been about serving others – and always with a spirit of joy and love.  She inspires me and challenges me to grow in this area – such a selfless person.

Now it’s a privillage to watch how my children adore their ‘oma’….and to see my mother have the time and energy to pass on her love, strength of spirit and grace to them….yes these are great times.

This year for lunch we headed off to Fortuna Restaurant at Sky City where we all relaxed and enjoyed the food and company.  Of course the kids favourite part was the dessert bar – could they eat any more lollies???  Aunty Sugar you would have been greatly impressed with their efforts!

To top it off we finally took the children up the Sky Tower – personally not one for heights but the views are incredible!  It’s truly where you can get a real appreciation for not just the beauty of our city but also it’s vastness.

What a great day – full of happy memories and I’m quietly thankful, dear God, for my blessed mother.

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Retail Therapy NYC styles

This is my second trip to NYC. 12 years ago Lyle and I spent 3 days here enroute to our 6 week trip through Europe.  It was pre 9/11 and yes, we went up those towers and the views were incredible. After the Dawn Parade I went to revisit the site to find a lot of construction work going on. It’s still a very poignant place to refind myself. This time round I have made a deliberate choice to stay above ground, walk everywhere and just simply ‘soak’ up all this city has to offer. The grid system is easy to navigate and how many of us know that this is a fabulous ‘people watching’ city. What New York is also re-known for is its shopping. There are a few stand out shops so far….one being ‘Anthropology’ down at the Chelsea Markets. The shop covered two levels and the eclectic array of garments, shoes, art books (there were heaps of them), furniture fittings, lamps, jewellery etc, etc was a visual feast. Walking up Fifth Avenue I stumbled across the flagship store for marimekko. As quoted the Finnish designer ‘Armi Ratia was a textile artist, managing director, creative director, wizard of words, publicity guru, visionary, maternal figure, and wellspring of inspiration. She has an incredible ability to decipher the mood of the times and sense future trends.’ I felt completely at home in the store – proceeded to duly buy a couple of cushion covers – and ended up showing the manager of the store my work. She totally got the connection and commented on just how many NZ customers visit the store.

I’m in love with the store and their design ethos. But it’s not rocket science to figure that one out!

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Relief Printing

This week I’ve been printing up a storm at the BYU print facilities.  It’s been great having this type of access.  Most of the students are now on finals so the print room is relatively quiet which allows for me to spread out and really have a play.

I’m working with one rectangular block and 5-6 smaller cut out shapes.  This selection of plates has enabled me to produce endless possible print outcomes.  As I mentioned earlier I am not so much here to ‘edition’ but rather to experiment and play with different print combinations.

Yesterday Matt and I began with the first two layers.  I started out with a creamy transparent layer with the intention that over time layers of different colours will be added.  Depending on the way I lay my paper down on the actual print block I eventually end up with patterns and shapes that are each very different.

Matt is kindly assisting me with the rolling up of the plates and also showing me his own techniques for registration.  I like his idea of using a matt board to place the original shape – I’m going to use this again for the future!  It also works so well because it’s just slightly lower in height of the actual linoleum.

Tomorrow I will add 2 to 3 more colours.  Some prints are already resolved and quite often the hardest part is knowing when to leave a print as ‘finished’ or keep going.

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Joe’s Place

My point of contact here in Utah has been Joesph Ostraaf.  We met some 15 years ago when I was still being represented by The Lane Gallery in Auckland. He was with a large group of BYU Fine Arts students and they were down in NZ on an art trip.

Our commonality struck with our affinity for Tonga – he has spent his two year mission there as a Mormon in 1978 and since then has often travelled back. His wife Melinda has also done her PHD on the plant life of Tonga – so between them their knowledge of much of Tonga’s arts and biology is very impressive.

Joe and his family are wonderful hosts. He has 6 children and together with their two youngest, Ethan (14) and Hannah (12), they live 1 hour south of Provo in a small rural town called Fairview, pop approx 2000. It’s a very dry landscape – the palette consists of varying shades of brown, tan and rusty ochre.

For our first night’s entertainment we out looking for elk or deer. Hmmmm….ok then! 😉 Admittedly the first group were behind fences but after the hawk, cranes, sheep, hares, horses, cows and goats we spotted some deer. And just so you know, Joe and his son Zac shot a deer not so long ago up in the hills with a bow and arrow!

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Studio Time

So I’m here in the States to not only attend my opening at Agora Gallery in NYC, courtesy of funding from Creative New Zealand, but I’m also spending two weeks at BYU, Provo in the Fine Arts Faculty.

Yesterday was spent carving out my lino cuts in Matt, one of the Graduate student’s studios.  It was his work that inspired me to do lino cuts – he is doing some very interesting layering and shapes in his work – I guess that’s why I looked twice.

I haven’t really got a fixed image in mind – nor have I the inclination to ‘edition’ my work.  Rather I am going to enjoy the freedom of experimenting and having a ‘play’ at the press.  This is a great departure from the way I have had to work with the team at Artrite Screenprinting.  This is no negative reflection on their behalf – in fact Artrite are like family to me and Glen and Don and the team are really easy to work with.  It’s more an indication of the fact that once you leave behind tertiary institutes and all their available equipment it becomes very difficult to access print studios.

Hence my desire to merely use this time to experiment and simply enjoy being back in a print environment where I am in control and neither time nor money is an issue.  Matt is going to be assisting me and we’ll be working a good solid couple of days to achieve my goal.

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Easter Sunday

On Easter Sunday morning we went and watched the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  They perform a live recording every Sunday that is broadcast around the world.  This has been the longest running live broadcast in the history of television.  We arrived early to get some good seats and it was interesting to watch how they produced the telecast.  The acoustics were fabulous and I was told that there were no metal nails used in the construction of the building.

It was a glorious day so we enjoyed walking around and appreciating the beautiful surroundings.  The Mormons own much of the surrounding land and buildings.  Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the US.  It’s attractive for it’s family environment and it seems an affordable place to live.  I’ve been told that the Mormon population is now only 40% yet it would seem that there is a Mormon church or temple every couple of km’s.

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Super size me!

We knew we had arrived in the States when we ordered our first meal at the airport in LA.  We laughed at ourselves in our ambitious ordering and quickly learnt that portion sizes here are very different to home.  Oh well – it served as both our lunch and dinner that day!

Check out our breakfast!  Doughnuts and bread rolls that were just like broetchen….lecker lecker!

These strawberries are pretty much available year round and come from California.  Two of them just fit on the size of my palm!  And they were sweet and delicious too….so I was thinking of my Chacha when I devoured these!


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Reunited State Side

It’s close on to a week since arriving in Utah.  It already feels longer just by what I’ve already experienced.  Mum and I have settled nicely all thanks to the wonderful hospitality of our family here.  We are staying with Uncle Mike and Aunty Martha Meredith.  Aunty Rona has also flown in from Pennsylvania where she now lives with one of her son’s and his family.

Aunty Martha and Aunty Rona immigrated from Vava’u, Tonga to NZ around the same time as my mother, during the early 1950’s.  They are related through the Wolfgramm side and spent alot of their early years hanging out together.  Aunty Rona explained that because they all (including my mother) had German blood they did not receive Tongan passports, they all were issued a document declaring them ‘stateless’.  I find this incredible to believe – and am sitting on this new information in the hope of creating a response.

Aunty Martha and Aunty Rona have been living in America for over 40 years now.  They initially settled in California before calling Utah home.  Uncle Mike and Aunty Martha have 9 children so it’s been a busy time meeting them all.  It’s been wonderful to meet some of the children over the Easter weekend.  Just like any great island family mum and food are the common glue that holds the entity together.

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The month of March

My latest exhibition is currently on show at Flagstaff Gallery, Devonport, Auckland.  It features 4 works on paper and 7 paintings.

Within the realm of Tongan culture ‘Koloa’ is defined as textile arts.  Women have focused on the production of bark cloths; mats, waist garments and woven basketry and these are still amongst the most prestigious material objects to the Tongan people.  Moving beyond the tangible objects I have explored the intrinsic values of ‘tapu’ (sacredness) and ‘faka’apa’apa (respect) embodied in ‘koloa’.  Included in my works are forms of Tongan dress such as the ‘kiekie’ (waist garments worn by women to formal events) as expressions of honour, respect and duty.

Threaded throughout my work is a visual process that documents the transformation of raw material to woven treasure.  I am exploring layers and marks with a confidence that is intuitively led.  The work remains sectionalised as tradition proclaims, but the palette combines the energies and colours of a modern Pacific landscape with the subtlety of customary barkcloth.

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