With the death of Jo Hardy, the Whangarei art community has lost its kuia and matriarch.

Jo - who also worked under the names Jo Who and Jo McNeill - was a huge presence since relocating from Christchurch in the 1970s.

A painterly conduit of the human condition, she covered topics from feminism to politics and portraits.

Jo developed a universal language in paint defiant of any borders and traversed that terrain with fearless talent.


From the Tangihua Ranges to the Holy Road Cones, Jo painted what she saw and felt in magic realist style.

Jo underlined a freedom of consciousness; she reacted to the mundane realities of our day to day living, painting subjects ranging from petrol stations and Primecare patients with flair. Self-trained in acrylic paint, with excellent drawing skills, her work developed into a mature and deliberate style, covering nearly 50 years.

Right up to her death she continued to share her energy and knowledge.

Her last work, a reflective multi portrait, identified stages of her life from childhood to facing mortality.

Jo was also a writer and once again offered a different perspective on a variety of topics.

In her last Northern Advocate column she described her journey into illness under the pseudonym Doris.

Jo left an incredible legacy. She encouraged younger artists, and it was her personality and openness that brought them together, asking questions and offering an alternative, if not at a practical level then in some fantastic theory.

Read more:
Joanne McNeill: Doris unafraid of unknown (last editorial for the Advocate)
Joanne McNeill: Root of Doris' agony revealed
Joanne McNeill: Drugs bust builds beach folklore

She championed the underdog. Her work is evidence art can provide passion for existence and passion for critical thinking.

Her practice is proof that art-based cultural growth in New Zealand has gained momentum.

She had many a friend and peer who deeply respected her.

Jo was buried at Snooks Cemetery with her late husband Mark McNeill. The respect and honour bestowed on her was sensitive and moving. It will be etched into the memories of those who attended.

Kaumatua Te Warihi Hetaraka called her soul to be free, to let her molecules disperse into the worlds in-between, as she wanted.

Christopher Talbot Wilkie offered a solemn and respectful lament to his dear, departed friend.