Artist finds creative ways to explore rules of nature
By Vanessa Crowe, Sustainable Communities Coordinator
A swarm of butterflies surprised visitors at the Midlands retirement village garden show. Spanning sliding glass doors and two large panels the butterflies were a lively inclusion in an impressive eco art installation by artist Mayme Chanwai.
The collaged and pastel butterflies were a collaborative effort, made by Mayme as well as fellow residents, family and friends. These sat next to a miniature garden installation including a finely crafted miniature sailing boat and a display of experimental kokedama moss balls.
The project is a creative response to environmental issues says Mayme. “Many of my works speak about man's relationship with nature and the side effects of what we call "progress". Visually I drew inspiration for this project from works by other artists in books on eco art and street art. The images stimulated my imagination and I found myself translating the ideas into our environment.” The depth of her research is impressive, with numerous quotes and inspiration examples accompanying her exhibition.
While thinking about sustainability and the environment Mayme realised that sustainability for her meant working with others. Her vision has come to fruition while working with many fellow retirement village residents as well as the wider community including professional artists and a high school student. Involving other people in her art making process is new for Mayme, who is more used to working independently, but after having a stroke which has limited her movement she has been determined to find ways to continue making art.
“For one who has mostly operated as an individual, it's been quite rewarding to learn to work with others who may not have had any experience with arts and crafts at a professional level.”
While she enjoys the outcome of her efforts Mayme says that the process of learning is more important. “Being able to improve our lives by delving into our creativity and encouraging us to extend ourselves beyond our comfort zone is the prize worth striving for.” She says that the project
has helped her to understand and have a better appreciation for both environmental and human frailty. Appreciating each other’s strengths and weaknesses is the key to working together to build communities and live in balance with the environment.
Mayme has spent much of her life as a pianist and music teacher. In her later life she furthered her tertiary education following an extensive period living and working in Papua New Guinea as well as spending a memorable year studying the Suzuki method of teaching music in Japan under the auspicious Shinichi Suzuki. She says adapting to different environments and taking on various challenges in the process of achieving life goals has always been a constant in her life.
In 2016, Mayme has ambitious plans to continue to develop her project. She is interested in continuing to work with interested people within the retirement village community as well as with young people in the Kāpiti district.