In Memento Moa, an exhibition of all new work, Gary Baseman creates a mythical land of hybrid creatures—exploring themes of migration, memory, and mortality.
Playing off the phrase “memento mori” which expresses the inevitability of death, Baseman reimagines Aotearoa New Zealand as a land of rebirth and harmony, bringing back the giant moa from extinction to symbolise those loved and now lost. Baseman pays tribute to his beloved cousin who immigrated to New Zealand from the United States, but whom he never visited at her adopted home during her lifetime. Beverly stayed in New Zealand to marry Craig Potton, one of New Zealand’s foremost photographers and Conservationists.
Through iconic characters set in otherworldly landscapes, Memento Moa considers family, history, and the idea of home with the artist’s longstanding desire to “celebrate the beauty of the bittersweetness of life.” His landscapes provide a whimsical, absurdist stage for curious characters in motion, suggesting change and the passage of time. Migration, the movement of large groups of people or animals from one place to another, takes on multiple meanings when considered instinctual, voluntary, or involuntary.
Born and raised in Hollywood, Baseman is the youngest child of Holocaust survivors who were forced to leave their ancestral homes in Eastern Europe during World War II. Compelled by their experience, Baseman considers the complexity of migration and immigration. The artist’s notion of home (belonging, surviving, thriving, remembering, and forgetting) feed into a broader consideration of extinction: the threat to and loss of flora, fauna, and human cultures. Childhood memories have fed this imagery. Popular culture, such as television, film, animation, books, games, toys, and beloved feline pets, now deceased, live on in fantastical new worlds inspired by Aotearoa.
For a comprehensive review of the exhibition, including an interview with Gary, check out the latest Autumn edition of ART NEWS. I have a number of copies for circulation should you be interested.
Click below for a further insight in to Memento Moa! A talk with Gary about the stories behind the exhibition.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Los Angeles-based Gary Baseman is an interdisciplinary artist whose work explores the human condition through fine art, illustration, performance, film, fashion, and toy design. Known for his raw style and humor, his art has appeared in international publications, games and toys (Cranium), digital collectibles (VeVe), and in the animated series and feature film “Disney’s Teacher’s Pet,” for which he was creator and executive producer. Baseman’s awards include multiple Emmys, a British Academy of Film & Television Arts award, and Fulbright and Sundance New Frontier fellowships. His many brand collaborations include COACH, Lladro, and Dr. Martens. His fine art has been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the United States, as well as in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.
Read and see more about Gary Baseman’s remarkable career at: https://www.garybaseman.com/
PUBLIC PROGRAMMES and EDUCATION
Opening week for the original display of Memento Moa at the Suter Art Gallery featured multiple events led by Gary Baseman, including gallery tours and workshops for teachers, families and teens. The opening reception at the Suter featured Baseman’s costumed character Manny Moa, live at human-scale. Like many of Baseman’s past exhibitions, there is potential to collaborate with community groups, schools, and other visual artists, actors, and dancers for engaging events and performances.
The Suter Gallery educator has compiled a comprehensive guide for school visits etc., catering for a variety of ages. This is a available from Exhibition Services upon request. Also, this short comment from her about the feelgood nature of the exhibition experience and accompanying workshops for the many groups and classes that have participated;
“I have found Memento Moa to be a very worthwhile exhibition to use for educational programmes at the art gallery. It uses a visual language that is very appealing and that students relate to immediately, but it uses this language to consider significant concepts such as immigration, loss and extinction. The creativity in the expression of these ideas is a real positive for this exhibition. It enables students to see how an artist can use their imagination to respond to and express their own personal experiences. Following Gary Baseman’s approach, visiting students were free to express themselves using their own visual language, and this was very empowering for them. I think the possibilities for developing students’ well-being through this exhibition is significant.
This exhibition was very popular for school programmes with many bookings, and these resulted in many revisits by families. The nature of the exhibition made it effective for developing new audiences”
Dr Esther McNaughton. Suter Education Team Leader
When available, Gary and Craig Potton are keen to attend openings and events at participating venues, and to carry out talks, workshops and tours such as those carried out at the Suter. A contribution to Gary’s travel costs and expenses can be flexible and negotiated in advance.
Internationally known for his limited edition collectibles, Baseman will offer a plush figure of Manny Moa, the featured original character of Memento Moa. Manny Moa comes with a special locket, a signed certificate of authenticity, and a booklet about his origin story. Baseman invites collectors to insert an image of their loved ones in this locket, so that in spirit they may always be at their side.
Additional available merchandise includes a silver version of the Manny Moa locket and an enamel pin. Baseman has previously collaborated with cultural organizations to create a broad range of products, and invites potential venues to consider promotional and sponsorship opportunities.
See examples of the merchandise described here on the slideshow at top of page.
MEMENTO MOA IS A SUTER ART GALLERY NELSON INITIATIVE