When Sue Kumeroa (aged 70), enrolled at The Learning Connexion (TLC) back in late 2015, her only intention was to have fun, develop some creative skills and hopefully produce a few “pleasant” paintings. Reasonable expectations, she thought, given her age.
Imagine her surprise then to find herself, a couple of years on, busily preparing for two art shows. The first, in February 2018, is at Whanganui’s Expressions Gallery & Working Studio where she will be guest exhibitor. In the second, she will be hosting her own home-based show as part of the Artists’ Open Studios Whanganui. And, it’s for that show, in March 2018, that her work was selected to appear in a half page advertisement in the January issue of NZ House & Garden magazine and for which she is being interviewed by the local newspaper.
It’s a lot for Sue to process. “I’m still getting used to all that’s happened so far, which way out-paces my initial tiny goals when I first enrolled with TLC,” she says. I never for a moment expected the joy, pleasure, excitement and marvellous opportunities that have come my way since then.”
Sue credits much of her unexpected progress to TLC’s creativity programme, which she undertakes as a distance student. “TLC provides an incredibly enabling style of teaching and learning, giving me what was needed to discover my true inner artist. I’ve been able to grow, learn, push boundaries, step outside of my art comfort space and become a confident creator.”
Having a mentor to support her in her study has been of particular value and Sue has embraced the challenges thrown her way. “Being persuaded by my mentor to begin a Facebook artist page meant I had to get used to my work being exposed to people. This was very scary at first and felt like the equivalent of putting photos of my knickers on Facebook! But it gave me the confidence to enter two works in the Whanganui Mental Health Awareness Week exhibition.”
While Sue is currently exploring a variety of techniques, styles and methods she has a particular penchant, like her mother before her, for fabric. She collects re-purposed clothing and fabric remnants, deconstructing them, cutting, painting, stitching, layering and reassembling them into 2D art works which are both intricate and unique. Then there are the fabric dolls, affectionately called ‘Agnes Dolls’ - each face lovingly and skilfully hand-painted.
Her work is getting noticed and opportunities are starting to line up, though Sue takes a characteristically common-sense approach about the future. “At 70, I’m not planning a career in art, but I love what I’m doing and I want very much to provide the same delight and enjoyment for others,” she says. With her unwavering dedication and infectious enthusiasm, we have no doubt that Sue will do just that.
Artists’ Open Studios Whanganui: 16-25 March 2018
Expressions Gallery & Working Studio exhibition: From 5 February 2018 (all month)