WARNING: PLEASE NOTE THE WINNING ARTWORK CONTAINS NUDITY
An almost 200-year-old painting features in Andrea Gardner's 2021 Patillo Whanganui Arts Review winning entry, and the purchase of a timer for her camera means she is present herself in the work.
"Now I Have Your Attention", a striking inkjet print of a scene Gardener constructed and photographed in her Whanganui studio, won the open award at the Arts Review online ceremony last Friday.
The image of a woman's breasts was created by American miniaturist painter Sarah Goodridge in 1828, and was made on a thin plate of ivory that was 2.6 inches high by 3.1 inches long. The painting, which is of Goodridge herself, was sent to Senator Daniel Webster, and upon his death was donated by his descendants to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
It is free for the public to use thanks to The Public Domain Review, an online journal and not-for-profit project that is dedicated to "the exploration of curious and compelling works from the history of art, literature, and ideas – focusing on works now fallen into the public domain ..."
"It was small, it was charming and it was painted beautifully, and it intrigues me that it was painted in 1828 and ended up in the Met," Gardner said. "That's pretty impressive.
"Now I've pinned it up there and it's become a part of another story."
Gardner said she was a photographer, but only in her studio, where her winning piece was created.
There was "very little" Photoshop involved in the process.
"It's what I call constructed or staged photography.
"The pink background is a big piece of cloth that I hung from the wall down to the floor, and then I just used things that were around me.
"It's just things that I like, like cardboard or brown paper, and I've been exploring colour quite a bit.
"The paper bag in this is actually one of those huge ones you buy at the supermarket to put your rubbish out on the street.
"They have writing on the front of them, which I didn't like, so I spent quite a long time turning that bag inside out without ripping it, and that's why it's so crinkled."
Inside the bag is Gardner herself, a feat made easier with the use of a timer.
"About a year ago I got a remote-controlled shutter release, which I'd never had before.
"I used to put my camera on for three seconds and have to run into the setup, knocking things over as I went.
"Now I have this remote, so I could take my time, get inside this bag, kneel and get into position. My setups aren't pristine, but I have a lot of fun. It's like this little stage that I've set up.
"If somebody was in there watching they might think I was a little crazy."
Gardner said an entry of her ceramic work had won the open award at the Arts Review "a very long time ago".
"A judge came and he really couldn't decide between three people so he gave it to all three.
"I shared it with Rick Rudd and David Murray, so between the three of us we were clay and glass.
"It must be so hard to be a judge for something like this, because art is so subjective."
In terms of the meaning behind "Now That I Have Your Attention", or for any of her works, Gardner said she tried not to tell people what they should think.
"I don't like to say 'It means this, this and this', I like some ambiguity. People will have their own stories, and I'm attracted to work that isn't lecturing to you.
"I have to admit though, when I open an art magazine and there's a lot of work that has female nudity by male artists, I just think 'Come on, no'. There's that realm of sexism and attention, and 'This is what art is'. That does annoy me.
"For me, it certainly makes a difference that this [Sarah Goodridge image] is by a female artist from the 1820s, and I don't see it as pornographic whatsoever."