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Wellington artist commissioned to paint Celia Lashlie

Wellington artist Heather Main commissioned to paint Celia Lashlie

Wellington artist Heather Main has been commissioned to paint a picture of social justice campaigner Celia Lashlie, runaway winner of a public poll to find the most deserving person to fill a space in the New Zealand Portrait Gallery’s national collection, director Gaelen Macdonald announced on Sunday.

Lashlie, a reforming prison officer who achieved worldwide fame for telling mothers how to handle their teenage sons, dominated votes in the gallery’s Who’s Missing? poll held throughout May.

She died of cancer aged 61 in February.

Ms Macdonald said Heather Main was chosen from more than 50 talented New Zealand portrait artists who filed expressions of interest in painting a posthumous picture of Celia Lashlie.

“She is not only an accomplished artist who put in a very strong proposal but she was a friend of Celia and has a real sense of the person she was,” she said.

Ms Main was chosen in consultation with Celia’s family. “The task carries a huge responsibility to capture some of Celia’s essence,” she said. “I need to show her strength, her clear vision, her abundant compassion, her insight into human behaviour and her love and support of the people most of us shun.

“As an artist, I am thrilled to be asked. As a friend of Celia’s for over 40 years I am determined to use the power of her love in my work.”

The work is expected to take up to four months and will join the gallery’s collection of more than 200 portraits, including Kiri Te Kanawa and Sir Edmund Hillary, near the end of the year, Ms Macdonald said.

She urged unsuccessful artists to consider entering this year’s prestigious biennial Adam Portraiture Award. Entries close on December 9 and an international judge will name the winner in February.


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