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Review: Island blue an inspiration

The unnoticed women of St Joseph’s Hospice are the inspiration for Melissa Anderson Scott’s latest exhibition.

The blue-uniformed cleaners, kitchen hands and other hospital workers work hard behind the scenes, often at several jobs as well as looking after large families.

“These women are practically invisible,” says Anderson Scott, whose exhibition A Different Kind of Blue is at Oedipus Rex Gallery until December 11.

“The paintings are the result of me suddenly noticing and recognizing aspects of their world,” she says. “I thought, ‘Why don’t I make them visible in an art work and allow people to see how beautiful they are?’.

“They have a joyous serenity, a wonderful sense of humour and are particularly sensitive about being appropriate at the hospice.”

Anderson Scott believes the human face can also represent inner turmoil and deep workings that may not be transmitted through other media. Her use of disposable gloves in the paintings is a symbol of the way women multitask in all cultures.

Once a week, the full-time Mt Eden-based artist is a voluntary “friend and facilitator” at the Epsom hospice, assisting patients and family to engage in art.

“Often, patients want to feel they have some power left and by creating something, they feel they get that power back. Their first work might express their anger and disappointment, but the next one might be a completely different flavour; with more of a calm acceptance of their situation. Often the patient will want to get rid of the dark image and keep the more tranquil one.”

Mother-of-three Anderson Scott, 51, moved from her home town of Chicago, USA to Auckland in 1975 – coincidentally the same time as the three women in the paintings moved here from Tonga and Nuie. A Nola Holmwood Portrait Award winner and finalist in the James Wallace Award four times, Anderson Scott paints in oils using Belgium linen – “the same stuff Rembrandt used” – which creates a textured surface.

She uses old Dutch and Flemish techniques of layering and glazing, using modern colours.

Anderson Scott has exhibited at the Oedipus Rex since 1989 and is also represented by a Chicago gallery.

Rosalind Le Bas Walker
Sunday Star Times, Nov 28, 2004: Island Blue an Inspiration
Scan of original review: Island blue an inspiration (384kb)