“Memento Moa is about death and grief, the passage of time and memories. I tend to draw and paint a lot of animals and mythical creatures, more so than humans. Extinction is explored in Memento Moa.” –Gary Baseman via Art News Aotearoa
Thank you Art News Aoteaora and contributor Andrew Paul Wood for featuring Gary Baseman’s latest exhibition Memento Moa, on view at the Suter Art Gallery through Sunday June 11, 2023.
The article titled “Moaland, via Los Angeles” is printed in the Autumn 2023 issue of the magazine, and highlights the moa and New Zealanders’ special relationship to this extinct animal that was especially popular at the dawn of the country’s independence, as many vetted for it as a national symbol. Known for its endemic birds, many that evolved for millions of years to be flightless after the supercontinent of Gondwanaland separated, New Zealand naturally became Baseman’s inspiration for the creation or reinterpretation of creatures, mythical or no longer extant.
Baseman’s obsession with extinction began in childhood in his hometown of Los Angeles, growing up by the La Brea Tar Pits where fossils of Ice Age animals continue to be found. Yet, the artist goes further with the meaning of “gone forever” to relate to loved ones lost, who have passed. An exhibition dedicated to his late cousin Beverly, Baseman “celebrates the beauty of the bittersweetness of life”. As described by author Susan Cain in Bittersweet (2022), bittersweetness is “a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world. The bittersweet is also about the recognition that light and dark, birth and death–bitter and sweet–are forever paired.”
Through his deceptively cute characters and fantastical landscapes, Baseman continues to paint his versions of sorrow, always inviting others to acknowledge and somehow find joy and sweetness in their own.