Still Life, Wild Places

Photography Stephen A’Court.

A new generation of women artists, including taxidermists, jewellers, painters, photographers, textile and installation artists will be taking over the rooms of Katherine Mansfield’s childhood home in Pōneke, Wellington.

The Still Life, Wild Places exhibition and event series hosted by The Metropolitan Club, in association with Katherine Mansfield House & Garden and Hendrick’s Gin, is inspired by Mansfield’s life, writing and beliefs – that humans were intrinsically liked to, and part of, the natural world.

Artists Antoinette Ratcliffe, Karley Feaver, Hayley Theyers, Jane Thorne, Paola King-Borrero, Lauren Dresscher and Steph Lusted will explore these concepts, and transform the domestic space of the 1888 home into a series of curious new settings that are informed by Mansfield’s life and works.

They will incorporate ethical taxidermy installations, refurbished dolls’ houses and vintage girls’ annuals, photographic prints, large scale mobiles and ethereal projections, offering visitors an opportunity to pause and reflect on our relationship to each other, to the natural world and to the animals that we live alongside.

As well as enjoying these artworks and installations, visitors can take part in a programme of experiential activations which will explore the themes of the exhibition.

They will be hosted within the house and beyond, extending out into bars, gardens and venues around Wellington.

Including, Bliss: A Taste of Mansfield during Visa Wellington on a Plate which pairs Hendrick’s Gin cocktails with food from the Canapé Company inspired by the exhibition, a Literary Taxidermy short story competition, Life and Death drawing sessions, Miss Brill’s Day Out in the Botanic Gardens, ethical taxidermy classes and more.

Cherie Jacobson, director of Katherine Mansfield House & Garden says, “One of Mansfield’s legacies is as a boundary-pushing creative woman, so we’re thrilled to have these talented creative women respond to Mansfield’s life and work and the house in which she was born.”

“it’s something quite different for us, to have an exhibition move beyond a single room and take over the house. I hope it brings new visitors to the house and helps those who are familiar with the house to see it in a new light.”

While we’d be inclined to describe Katherine Mansfield as a national treasure and deserving of greater recognition as one of New Zealand’s leading authors, Virginia Woolf said Mansfield stank like a ‘civet cat’, Alfred Orage called her ‘the marmoset’, in a fictional representation, DH Lawrence called her a ‘restless bird’ while she and her husband were referred to as ‘the two tigers’ by friends.

Considered in her time to be the equal of the dam Lawrence and Woolf who described her so anomalistically above, Mansfield was a literary innovator who explored many contemporary themes in her writing.

She was fiercely critical of humans’ tendency to anthropocentrism, a human-centred worldview, and often used wild animalistic imagery and metaphors in her writing.

Mansfield’s stories blur the boundaries between people, animals and nature, in strong contrast to the dominant patriarchal culture of the earth 20th century that believed humans, particularly men, were separate from, and superior to, nature, which they exploited according to their needs.

She wrote about the ‘others’ of that culture; women, children, animals and plants, subjects generally regarded as inferior and of secondary importance.

These themes are incredibly topical today, given the increasing separation and disregard that humanity has for the natural world, which is resulting in global environmental destruction. 

Given this urgent situation, we believe it’s a great time to re-engage with Mansfield’s work through the eyes of the new generation of contemporary women artists.

Matt Wiseman, director of The Metropolitan Club, says, “We are very excited to be presenting a diverse catalogue of works from talented artists, who are interpreting the life and work of one of Aotearoa’s most important writers. Partnering with Katherine Mansfield House & Garden on this exhibition and event series has been incredibly special as we are able to display site-specific works, and host experiential activations, within Mansfield’s childhood home.”

This thoroughly modern take on some thoroughly modern writing by one of New Zealand’s best authors will run from 7th August to the 31st October, at Katherine Mansfield House & Garden.

Full programme of events, details and tickets can be found here.

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