Lone Stranger - Barbara Strathdee
30 August - 29 September
360 Programme at the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery
Seeking out New Zealanders in Kombi vans was one of the ways senior Wellington artist Barbara Strathdee used to quell her homesickness during 30 years living in Trieste, northern Italy. This exhibition of prints, photographs and sculptural installations explores those feelings of dislocation - the feelings of being an outsider in another culture, a dweller or traveller in a foreign place far away from your home country.
Born in Wellington in 1941, Barbara Strathdee arrived in the northern port city of Trieste, where her scientist husband was based, in the 1960s. The couple stayed for three decades, during which time Strathdee held many solo exhibitions in both countries. Lone Stranger is the sixth occasion she has exhibited at City Gallery Wellington. Most recently her work featured in Parihaka-The Art of Passive Resistance (2000).
"When I got homesick, I used to go into town and seek out any Kombi vans I could see with New Zealand flags on them," says Strathdee. "I'd invite the Kiwis back for a free shower and a talk!" She playfully explores this yearning for a far away place in a series of prints entitled Sweet NZ. Jelly jubes have been laid out in the shape of New Zealand, then enlarged to look like travel posters for a delectable holiday destination. The work highlights how important the distinctive shape of New Zealand becomes when you're away from home for a long time, and how you find yourself paying sudden attention when a reference to New Zealand crops up in the news or in a book, she says.
Other works draw on the experience of being in Trieste, close to the former Yugoslavian border, during the war between Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s. The photographs, Bisogna Provveder (Provisions), originate from a 1994 installation Strathdee made at an annual art festival in Sitran, a mountain village in the Dolomites. The festival is held when the villagers are storing away provisions for winter. Strathdee placed photographs of Wellington harbour (taken by fellow artist Philippa Blair) into round aluminium forms. "The photos of the sea are a collection of the places I dreamt of through the worst of the months of conflict. This was my way of storing up provisions for difficult times," she says.
* Artist's talk - Tuesday 10 September, 6pm, City Cinema Barbara Strathdee talks with Dr Suzanne P. MacAuley, an American art historian and folklorist, about the experience of being a 'world traveller' and 'professional exile'. Dr MacAulay has worked extensively overseas and now directs the Quay School of the Arts, Wanganui Polytechnic, Wanganui. She is writing a book on highly trained immigrants who have come to work in Wanganui's educational and medical sectors.
Lone Stranger is presented within the 360 programme - a full perspective on Wellington Art - which is generously sponsored by Designworks. Generously supported by Montana Wines Ltd and Ruth Pretty Catering. City Gallery Wellington is managed by the Wellington Museums Trust with major funding from the Wellington City Council.