From New York to Naseby

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artist Imogen Taylor was served a major swerve earlier this year when she went from the bright lights of New York city to the night skies of Naseby.

In February the accomplished painter travelled to New York to begin a sixmonth residency, but after about three weeks the Covid-19 pandemic ‘‘got pretty bad over there’’.
‘‘So I had to make the call to leave New York and come back to New Zealand,’’ Taylor said.

Returning from such a high risk city, she decided to forgo her home in Auckland, instead isolating at a friend’s crib in Naseby with her partner Sue Hillery, and their dog Dusty.
‘‘I found it so uncanny that I had gone from a global city like New York to a tiny, tiny town.’’

Staying in Naseby for about three months became ‘‘a really lovely experience’’, she said.
A Creative New Zealand arts continuity grant allowed her to develop a new body of work exploring modernism, feminism and queerness with specific reference to Otago.

‘‘A lot of my influences for my art practice were based in Central Otago.’’
In particular she was influenced by the work of Rita Angus, who spent some time in Naseby in the 1950s.
‘‘So I looked into the history of regionalism, particularly in the Maniototo.’’

Living in a small rural area was a reverse of what queer artists often experienced, as most usually moved to bigger cities, but Taylor believed the regions were now more openminded and welcoming.
‘‘I know a lot of queer people who are moving or have moved back into the regions and it is not as hard as people think it is — I know some gay farmers down the line and they actually find communities are really supportive.
‘‘So I hope it keeps happening and I hope there is more support for queer people growing up in those communities as well.’’

Taylor was from the Bay of Islands so living in a former goldmining town and witnessing the change from the end of summer to autumn and into winter was ‘‘really dramatic, probably the most extreme change of seasons I have ever seen’’.
Being able to walk in the forest, and spend time outdoors foraging and gardening was ‘‘pretty luxurious’’.
‘‘Everyone was super friendly and generous,’’ she said.

Art in isolation . . . Water Race, 2020, Acrylic on hessian, by Imogen Taylor. PHOTO: SUPPLIED