Art puts women in frame

The Northern Advocate - - Front Page - Mikaela Collins

It’s the early 90s and An­nie Hill is teach­ing a class at Pom­pal­lier Catholic Col­lege when she tells them to stop and watch fel­low stu­dent Penny Howard paint.

“It was like a dance,” Hill said.

It was one of the many mo­ments Hill, who still lives in Whanga¯rei, knew Howard was go­ing to be “a win­ner”.

Fast for­ward about 27 years and Howard is now show­cas­ing her lat­est work in an ex­hi­bi­tion at Auck­land’s Whites­pace Con­tem­po­rary Art. Called Mana Muse, the ex­hi­bi­tion com­prises por­traits of women who are lead­ers in their fields in­clud­ing singer Anika Moa, poet and painter

Sia Figiel, Green Party coleader Marama David­son, and poet and scholar Dr Selina Tusi­tala Marsh.

The 44-year-old, who now lives in Auck­land, said Hill was her “most mas­sive in­flu­ence” in art.

“I’d writ­ten in a book at Maunu Pri­mary that I ei­ther wanted to be in the cir­cus or an artist. I was al­ways the creative one at school but when An­nie came to art school, I think I was in 6th

form, then I re­ally knew, and she was sort of the one who re­ally made me feel like ‘you can do this’.”

Hill, who is a “big Penny fan” and is now good friends with her, said Howard’s mum ini­tially drew her at­ten­tion to how Howard was “deeply sen­si­tive” to art.

“Some peo­ple will sit at their desk and scratch away but Penny would stand and when she was re­ally in­volved in her paint­ing it was like a dance.

“So it was quite beau­ti­ful to watch her paint. I re­mem­ber telling the kids to stop and watch her paint. That was one of the mo­ments where I thought ‘you’ve re­ally got it’,” Hill said.

Howard stud­ied a Bach­e­lor of Fine Arts at Auck­land So­ci­ety of Arts, grad­u­at­ing in 1995.

She says her work to­day is re­al­is­tic and tells sto­ries.

A red thread runs through all her art which is I nga¯ wa¯ o mua — the Ma¯ori world view that we take the past with us into the fu­ture for guid­ance.

Howard, who is of Nga¯puhi de­scent, said she built it into her art work af­ter learn­ing more about her whaka­papa.

“Within all my work that’s the ethos, that there’s story telling and I’m leav­ing mark­ers for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and I’m try­ing to en­cour­age other peo­ple to do that in what­ever they do — mak­ing sure you’re ask­ing for sto­ries and make sure that you’re telling them.”

Mana Muse fo­cuses on strong Ma¯ori and Pa­cific woman.

Howard ini­tially ap­proached Anika Moa about paint­ing her for the New Zealand Por­trait Awards. But when she didn’t get in to the awards, she de­cided to ex­pand and do a se­ries of por­traits on women who in­spired her.

“I had a meet­ing with all of the women and I said I wanted to tip the whole idea of the muse on its head, the old tra­di­tional idea of males paint­ing women and pos­ing them how they’d want them — it just didn’t feel right. I wanted to put that back to them — here I am a fe­male paint­ing a fe­male and I’m say­ing how do you want to be por­trayed?”

Howard pho­tographed all of the women and then printed the im­ages out life size so she could in­clude all the lit­tle de­tails.

■ Mana Muse is at Whites­pace Con­tem­po­rary Art un­til Oc­to­ber 26.

Artist Penny Howard with the por­traits of Green Party co-leader Marama David­son and poet and scholar Dr Selina Tusi­tala Marsh. In­set: Whanga¯rei’s An­nie Hill taught Penny Howard at high school and could tell she was go­ing to be “a win­ner”.

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