Queering art at Toi Poneke

18 July 2016

Based in Boise, Idaho, New Zealand artists Caroline Earley and Kate Walker constantly find themselves caught between two worlds. Their Toi Pōneke exhibition Certain Ways explores these ideas – borders, boundary crossing and the construction of gender.

Yellow shapes with drawings of people dancing in red.

Intersexions, Caroline Earley and Kate Walker

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Earley, a ceramic artist, and Walker, an interdisciplinary artist with a painting and video background, are also partners and used to live behind Toi Pōneke in Footscray Avenue. The couple, who met while teaching art at Wellington Girls College, are now professors at Boise State University, and say maintaining a cross-cultural perspective is key to their work.

“One way we live this day to day is tuning in to New Zealand’s National Radio while in the studio in Boise. The best is hearing the New Zealand perspective on US events,” says Earley. “As New Zealanders and Wellingtonians it is very important to us both to come back as much as we can and to show our work here, and keep in touch with the New Zealand art world.”

Certain Ways exhibits flocked, brightly-coloured ceramic forms hung on the wall like a mathematical equation, and large-scale, laser-cut canvas paintings based on fence forms. The ceramic pieces are loosely modelled on shapes and variations of XY chromosomes.

In a process described as “queering” objects, Walker throws traditional ceramic forms that are then made ‘different’ or ‘other’ with excessive colour and texture.

“Mainstream culture presents gender as a binary, male and female, as the only two options,” she says. “But gender is a construction, and we are trying to look at what is in-between the binary, through this variation on form.”

The fence paintings are based on fences or barriers, sites of division and opposition, as well as blockages to be passed beyond. Collaged media texts in the paint surface present multiple voices that we hear in the media, resulting in dense, layered narratives that provide a snapshot of current cultural conversations on the issues.

“Having this exhibition at Toi Pōneke on the 30th anniversary of Fran Wilde’s Homosexual Law Reform Bill makes it that much more significant, especially for Kate, who was on the 1985 marches in Wellington, in support of that bill,” says Earley.