• Sue Nelson

An artist's life on the Shore

My Shore Life: Sue Nelson

Sue Nelson, Artist (www.susannelson-art.co.nz)

Sue Nelson was born and raised in Canada, and lived in Deep Cove on the north shore of Vancouver. She married a Kiwi and moved to New Zealand with their three children in 2003 and settled on the North Shore. She now lives in Browns Bay. Christine Young talked to her about her Shore life…

Christine Young: Please tell us a bit about your background.

Sue Nelson: My love for art-making started as a painter of special finishes for interiors (faux finishing) and moved from walls to canvases as family life and motherhood took over. While raising young kids I had a few exhibitions and later, in 2010, completed a Masters in Arts Management at Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design. That led to some great part-time work opportunities: with Creative New Zealand, Touch Compass Dance Company, Indian Ink Theatre Company, and for the last five years as Assistant Manager for NZTrio. I’ve just embarked on a Post Grad Diploma in Fine Arts at Elam.

CY: What do you most love about living on the Shore?

SN: Being by the sea. It’s my bestie, feels like home. And I love neighbourhoods that feel down-to-earth, clean, and friendly.

CY: How long have you lived here?

SN: About 16 years..

CY: Please tell us about your own art practice and your involvement with NZTrio.

SN: I called myself a painter, until I realised I tend to work in themes or series that actually take me outside just paint – so I guess I’m a multi-media artist. For instance, in my first solo exhibition (Life at Random 2008) many of the works ended up being a bit of a random play with materials in their own right – wax, music sheets, smoked clay, dripped paint etc. Then I moved on to a new series (Pink Ravens 2010) that explored my cultural identity as a Pakeha girl living in New Zealand, but born on the Pacific west coast of Canada which has a First Nations spirit much like the Māori spirit of Aotearoa. There were antlers, doll heads, curling stones, cedar carving, beads and feathers involved. It’s whatever the ideas dictate really – I just kind of roll with it.

My work with NZTrio is mostly marketing and concert logistics. I work closely with Vanessa Zigliani, our manager. We are a small but mighty team, and we have wonderful supportive audiences and patrons. We’ve just been through a transition period finding new permanent members – who are two uber-talented ‘Shore’ girls – Somi Kim (piano) and Amalia Hall (violin). Vanessa also grew up on the Shore so we’ve got Ashley, our cellist, well and truly cornered!

CY: What other local activities and organisations are you involved with?

SN: I’ve slowed down a lot in recent years with volunteer stuff because of a change in circumstances. But I was a very involved mum with fundraisers for kindy and primary school committees, secretary for Awatuna Sea Scouts for several years, manager of the kids’ basketball teams, and I’ve been involved with NZ Sculpture OnShore since about 2009. I support several environmental groups; I once baked poop emoji cupcakes and delivered them to our Browns Bay electorate office as part of a country-wide protest to clean up our waterways. (They were yum and made with love – no real poop involved!)

CY: Tell us about a place that is a secret gem on the Shore?

SN: The walk at Long Bay, when you get up over the hill at the top; it takes my breath away every time. And there’s a naughty little nudie beach a little further on that surprises a few tourist families walking past.

CY: Do you have a favourite local event you look forward to each year?

SN: Not really. I keep my eye open for interesting art exhibitions on the Shore. Other than that, my faves are probably the Art Fair and the Writers Festival – but they’re not local.

CY: If you could change one aspect about your suburb, what would that be?

SN: More recycling bins. Better quality shops – although that’s improving. And no more chemical weed-spraying. Sorry – that’s three.

CY: Who would you most like as neighbours and why?

SN: Friendly, down-to-earth people from a diverse range of cultures with a shared appreciation for community, environment, and respected differences. I am lucky to have some pretty awesome neighbours where I am.