20 Apr Artists in lockdown: Sara McIntrye
Curator & Public Programmes Manager, Greg Donson talks to photographer Sara McIntyre whose beautiful photographs of Kakahi, (where she lives) and the surrounding King Country will feature in the exhibition ‘Observations of a Rural Nurse’ that will be on view this Winter at the Sarjeant Gallery. The exhibition accompanies a beautifully illustrated hard cover book with essays that has been published by Massey University Press.
Sara we’re very much looking forward to staging your show in the coming months when we reopen. It was great we were able to make such good progress on planning for the final selection of works to be included in the exhibition just before the lockdown. Who would have thought that when you visited Whanganui that within a week we’d be living in a whole new world? It’s a strange time for us all, how’s lockdown been going for you? Who’s in your bubble with you?
I’m used to spending winters here in a state of semi social distancing. The difference now is I have my son and daughter in law here for the duration so it’s more sociable than usual.
Since you’ve finished your nursing work, you’ve been living a somewhat solitary life in Kakahi, which is home for you and a place you love, so I can’t imagine the currently lockdown is a great hardship or possibly too much different from everyday life. Are you missing those interactions that you normally have with people in Kakahi?
Yes, I’m missing them now after three weeks. But there’s phone calls, community emails. Visits to the General Store continue adding a certain normality. Manu Lala, who runs the store, is considered essential which appeals to him, and us.
The trip you were making when you came to work on the final selection of works in Whanganui a few weeks ago was the beginning of a bit of an adventure in Vera the van. You had to cut that trip short and head home, did you have any big plans for what you wanted to photograph?
It was to be a holiday with the intention of catching up with friends on the way. But the photography is a constant. I never stop looking. New Zealand is so good. I usually take backroads and detours, taking ten times longer to get anywhere but I’m in my element.
Ihupuku Marae (I think) near Waiinu Beach. That was about as far as I got before our lives took a sharp turn.
Obviously the lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time for the upcoming launch of your book with Massey University Press and the show at the Sarjeant. Both of which will still be happening but just not quite as we had all planned, how are you feeling about this, frustrated or philosophical?
At first it was a shock. Six months ago, inconceivable. Now I’m quite philosophical about it. Looking at the rest of the world and what’s happening puts it into perspective. A small hiccough. The launch and exhibition will happen, later, perhaps differently. We just need to rethink.
What’s surprised you about being stuck at home 24/7, are you still out with your camera, any new ground to be covered?
We have no neighbours for over 1 km. Long stretches of river to ourselves, and a dog to walk. The subject matter is the same but I’ve been photographing it for years and never get sick of it. I have a blue gum on my drive. It features frequently in my book. I’m still photographing it. At this time of year the colours and the light are stunning.
What’s the one item or items you wished you’d acquired / purchased to keep you occupied during lockdown?
Chocolate. It’s raining today.
Actually coffee beans were the cause of much anxiety until Jacinda caught on and classified them as essential. I have my coffee beans couriered, living here.
Are you more disciplined in your making or a bit distracted?
A lot less disciplined. I have moments but very easily distracted. When you think you have weeks of lockdown nothing is urgent. It’s a nice way to live, slower. I read somewhere not to feel guilty about it and I’m heeding that advice.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened since you’ve been in lockdown?
Being classified as a geriatric, vulnerable, by my family. Okay… And when they’re gone I’ll go back to going to the supermarket, the rubbish dump, chopping firewood, cleaning the guttering, cooking. In the meantime I’m actually enjoying my lockdown status.
Are you developing a new routine that’s helping you stay focused on either making art or just staying sane? Or is it business as usual?
The routine developing is increasingly slower and evolves around food, coffee and wine. There’s moments of productivity spread out intermittently over a longer time than usual.
I did manage my first selfie, albeit headless, for Caroline Billing’s series ‘What I’m Wearing’ for her At Home exhibition on Instagram @thenational_nz
And an interview with Sally Blundell for the Listener which folded two days later. So I’ve been sort of productive.
Read any good books, listened to any good podcasts?
Boy Swallows Universe, by Trent Dalton. What a story teller! Another brilliant story teller, Lucia Berlin. Her short stories in A Manual for Cleaning Women and I’ve just started her Evening in Paradise.
What would be your lockdown theme song?
This is it. I received it the first day of lockdown. Cheesy song, but what’s not to love about this video.