Keri McGill in the ConArt studio in Masterton. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Lisa Urbani
When Kerri McGill accepted a two-month art residency with New Zealand Pacific Studios, Boston-based artist, she did not expect to end up staying an extra two months, through the covid-19 lockdown.

Not one to waste the opportunity to engage with her environment, she threw herself into the art scene, and several projects, keeping herself busy, making new acquaintances, and experiencing cultural highlights such as the Golden Shears competition and kapa haka groups.

Once her residency finished at the end of March, the cottage she had stayed in was no longer available, but thanks to the kindness of fellow New England compatriot – Masterton writer and photographer Madeleine Slavick – she had a place to stay, during the lockdown.

As the fifth recipient of the Masterton District Council Fellowship, she was able to set up an art studio in the ConArt village and focus on her painting and interactions with fellow artists and interested members of the public.

Kerri described the Wairarapa landscape, with its undulating hills as” having an energy and motion that flowed” and said it reminded her of waves.

Travelling widely, her interpretations of the fluid topography of the land were enhanced by her inclusion of maps in her painting, and her self-described “mixed-media map collage dreamscapes” which evolved organically as she responded to the subtle beauty of New Zealand vistas.

She came to the residency with no preconceived ideas, just the intention to treat her experience as a blank slate, and get involved with the community, all of which she has done.

Exploring the rich spectrum of the art scene in Wairarapa, Kerri participated at King Street Artworks, gave presentations on her creative processes and work in the film industry, and established links with the Masterton Art Club and Wai Art based inCarterton.

She spent time at Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History, which showcases the work of local and national artists, and Te Patukituki, a Maori art space with traditional skilled artisans.

She tried her hand at printmaking, and joined a Wai Word event – a panel discussion on the environment.

Linking up with the Outdoor Poems Project started by Masterton writer Chris Daniell gave her the chance to also meet with historian Gareth Winter, whose poem she has interpreted visually.

For Kerri, the unexpected delay in her travel plans, and the separation from her home was made easier by the welcoming attitude, and she was determined to “find the potential in the situation”.

“Every person I encountered in this fellowship experience offered me opportunities to expand my art making in every way.

“I am beyond grateful.”