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Milk and Honey

ArtistLonnie Hutchinson
Production Date2012
Mediumbuilders paper, metal pins
Size3000 x 3000 mm
ClassificationObject
DepartmentNew Zealand Art
Accession Date18 Oct 2012
Accession NoC2012/1/33.1-3
Credit LineChartwell Collection, commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2012

Description

Lonnie Hutchinson is an Auckland-based artist of Sāmoan and Māori descent whose practice subtly addresses issues of female experience from indigenous and feminist perspectives. In 'Milk and Honey', 2012 three panels of black builder's paper hang like pieces of lace, their open and intricate curvilinear patterns contrast with the hard edges and areas of uncut black paper which run like borders down their sides. The panels vary in tone. On the central panel Hutchinson's recurring protgonist, Black Pearl, emerges from the bottom like a tree, appearing as a blazing goddess and image of strength. The left-hand panel's open design is playful in mood, as an impish Black Pearl frolics on the leaves and vines of the hue (gourd plant). On the right-hand panel, the repeated seaweed pattern surrounds a central opening, which is protected by thin Venus Flytrap-like hairs or long, sharp teeth. Here, Hutchinson's sexual imagery is more threatening. With 'Milk and Honey' Hutchinson uses feminist theorist Abigail Solomon-Godeau's theory of 'taunting and haunting', to 'turn on the mechanisms of historical and cultural repression', and in particular the repression of female and lesbian sexuality in Pacific Island culture. Black Pearl is inspired by the history of Pacific and Aboriginal women who were kept as slaves on board pearl ships. A historical consciousness is reflected in the development of Hutchinson's visual language and motifs, which combine traditional Māori and Pacific design while paying homage to Pacific women's arts like tīvaevae (quilt making) and weaving. In 'Comb (Red)', 2009 Hutchinson transforms the native captive into a provocateur. The scarlet red steel comb, with 13 perfect sharp teeth, resembles those worn by women throughout the Pacific to keep their hair in place - a symbol of restraint, beauty and control. The cut-out voids in both these works suggest the alternate history of feminine experience - one that is missing from the dominant patriarchal discourse. On a metaphorical level, what is cut out of the sculptures and installations symbolises deliberate omissions in narratives relating to the history of Pacific women.

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