Dalwyne Wotton has been meticulously cleaning the Sarjeant Gallery for the past sixteen years. Since her first day in May 1996, Dalwyne has kept the Gallery pristine, guiding her mop around numerous artworks. Last month she packed up her cleaning kit for the last time to settle in to retirement. As a newly employed Collection Transition Assistant I was instantly welcomed by Dalwyne’s warm smile and elegant disposition. I was lucky enough to ask her a few questions about her time at the gallery…
Do you have a stand out memory from your time at the Sarjeant Gallery?
Discovering that Mark Braunias was painting me into a work as part of his London Town exhibition, using a photograph of me taken in 1971 as part of a newspaper advertisement.
During your sixteen years employment what exhibitions have you particularly enjoyed?
Regan Gentry’s Near Nowhere, Near Impossible. It captured the essence of a bygone era. His meticulous, creative work is unforgettable. Rodney Fumpston’s prints drew me and my mop into the West Wing whenever I was passing through the Dome. I loved the artist’s use of simple lines and vibrant colour. At home, whenever we are captivated by the colours of nature as the sun goes down, we will comment, “Look, it’s another Fumpston sky.”
What did you love most about your job?
Being physically active every day in a beautiful environment, greeting staff as they arrived at work, meeting various artists and watching their processes, the magpies singing on the dome as I went about my duties.
What is the strangest thing you’ve had to clean at the Sarjeant?
When Sue Cooke’s magical Antarctica exhibition, The Paradise Project, was showing at the Gallery, I had to don hospital booties and “groom the snow” each morning to return it to its pristine state behind the hut door.
What about individual favourite works from the Sarjeant Collection?
Curiosity, by Eugen von Blaas. For me, this is a faithful, everlasting work of elegance and beauty.
How do you think the community will benefit from the Redevelopment Project?
We will benefit as a community by ensuring Henry Sarjeant’s legacy continues in a safe and enhancing environment. To have the space to spread our collection further will give us the joy of coming to know the treasures that at present are mostly hidden. We need the Sarjeant Project to proceed and succeed to enliven the city’s cultural life.
Finally, what do you love most about Whanganui?
The river and all of its moods, the trees and historical buildings that grace our city, the buzz of the art, in all its forms, giving us creative and colourful people to enjoy.
Although the gallery building will no longer be calling Dalwyne into work each day, Sarjeant staff will still see her friendly face as a volunteer. An avid craftsperson, Dalwyne will now have more time to work on her intricate sewing and craft activities.
Thank you Dalwyne for taking the time to give such insightful answers to my questions. The Sarjeant staff already miss your smile in the mornings.
Te Maari Barham
Collection Transition Assistant