Patea-based artist Michaela Stoneman first visited Jerusalem (Hiruharama) on the Whanganui River to celebrate a friend's birthday.

"It was just women at the time, I remember a lot of cackling," she recalls.

She has visited a number of times since and her most recent visits have been as an informal artist in residence.

"It is a unique and special place," says Stoneman.


"I feel different when I am there - my thoughts are clearer, not so restless. Perceptions around space and time change. The air is different."

It has also been the perfect place for her to commune with the spirits of her subjects -Sister Suzanne Aubert and James K. Baxter.

The fruits of her time at Jerusalem are on display at Whanganui's Space Gallery as the exhibition named The Nun & The Poet: Jerusalem.

The exhibition includes etchings, woodcuts and photographs made during and after her times at Jerusalem.

There is a companion booklet with writings from Baxter, Aubert, Mere Hohepa, Jessie Munro and others as well as Stoneman's own writing.

Stoneman says she relished the stillness and calm of Jerusalem and it was not an easy place to leave.

"I felt happy to be going back to my life but regretful that I couldn't stay longer," she says.

"The old cliché of time standing still is evident there.

"I read a lot of books while I was there - drawing on the wealth of words written by Aubert and Baxter, their philosophies are all tied in with the energy at Jerusalem, for me."

Stoneman's print work was done after each visit and she says a couple of local experts have given her the inspiration and instruction for her work.

"Print-makers are a special breed, keen and generous to share their knowledge, skills and special equipment.

"I was lucky to be able to arrange a weekend workshop to learn letterpress by Marty Vreede at his workshop in Whanganui prior to my stint at the convent this year.

"I also had to hone my mezzo tint skills, requiring a lot of patience and many, many proofs. I had help from another mentor, Julia Ellery, who I call Whanganui's 'Queen of Mezzo tint'."

Stoneman says she is not Catholic but has a "thing about Mary" which she says was likely inspired by time spent with her Catholic grandparents.

She has now inherited her grandmother's glass rosary beads which have been used to create the cyantype series Luminous Mysteries, featured in her exhibition.

The Nun and the Poet: Jerusalem is open for viewing at Space Studio and Gallery: 64 Taupo Quay, Whanganui until September 22. Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Thursday 9am-1pm. Friday and Saturday 9am-1pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.