Artist: Caroline McQuarrie
Dimensions:1800 x 1500 mm
Medium: Digital photographic montage from flatbed scans of pressed flowers
Caroline McQuarrie is an interdisciplinary artist whose primary interest is the concept of home, whether it is located in a domestic space, a community or the land we identify with. She works with photography, video and craft practices to explore meaning carried in photographic and craft based objects and domestic, suburban or community sites. Exploring the role of the feminine in everyday life, and investigating the capacity for the act of making to create agency in women’s lives, McQuarrie is concerned with how memory and sentiment is manifested in objects. Her work also explores how the photographic representation of a site with a particular history can reflect on the present. Caroline is a Senior Lecturer in Photography at Massey University, Wellington.
When Pākeha settled Te Tai Poutini they brought with them garden plants from their home countries. Often the only obvious marker that a site in the region was formerly a home is the still surviving garden plants; once the garden is no longer there the remaining plants change from welcome guest to weed. In Aotearoa New Zealand bio-security is a serious issue. Invasive weeds threaten native habitats, but more benign plants blend into the landscape as successive generations become accustomed to them. ‘Forgotten Garden’ references the 19th and early 20th century hobby of pressing flowers as an adjunct to memory. Scanned as transparencies, and then arranged to be visually overwhelming, these plants which have been collected on the West Coast become symbolic of Pākeha settler communities.
During lock down and for a subsequent 8 weeks following my work (teaching at a university) went online. This was an extremely busy and stressful time and impacted my ability to continue to make my own work. I also had an exhibition planned for a museum in the UK in early 2021 cancelled. While COVID-19 hasn’t specifically changed my approach to making art, it does highlight that practices where the artist concentrates on local stories (as I have been doing for the last decade) are increasingly valid.