O L D S O U T H E R N S K Y
Old Southern Sky is a solo exhibition by Sierra Roberts. Comprising nine original pieces, Sierra reimagines timeless scenes, combining her past and present homes to create a series of new works that renew and revitalise our interpretation of the lower south island, New Zealand.
Sierra was born in Arizona, lived in Mount Cook with her family, and now resides in Wanaka.
"Immobilised at home by the covid pandemic, I was drawn to reflect on the similarities between my three ‘homes’, what connects them and what home means to me".
The Great American West has forever been romanticised, with its vast landscapes and enormous trailing clouds. Land use has adapted with time, bringing new people and ideas but only changing the appearance of the land temporarily. Dramatically different seasons with extreme climates bring an unpredictable fierceness to the region, revered and loved by locals who live for it.
Sierra takes the viewer on a tour through the Central Otago High Country, narrating a gold-tinted epic of inland mountains and high plains and wonderful afternoon hues, alluding to some of the people who have stood atop these ridges and sought shelter and shade beneath them. Some may argue, who’s view is better? Those who like to stare up at the peaks and those who stare down from them.
'The Dusk Trail'
Two riders on a dusk trail paused for a moment, overcome by the profound unlikeliness of their existence. The deep ridiculousness that at some point, in some remote corner of the universe, wedged between the glittering and innumerable solar systems on an insignificant but entirely consequential speck of dust there emerged not just all the distinct phenomena of land and sky and sea but also a group of beings capable of witnessing it. And, going a step further, looking right down in the details and realising that despite, (or maybe because of?), the mountains of preposterous gadgetry, the poor hearted landlords and lying politicians, pyramid schemes and mortgage payments and the fact that the truth is never told between the hours of nine and five one had ended up here, at this place in this time to witness this moment. The ebb and flow of life, the dancing wheel of chance, it had all, all of it, led to this. Maybe it meant something, maybe not, but no combination of rationalisation or hubris or even nihilism could shake the feeling that God, or something, had got it right. Whatever it meant.
There is no shortage of fuss and bother, not to mention copious articles in airline magazines, on the delights and wonders of modern cosmopolitan living. The lives of the cultured humans that enjoy the absolute best that is on offer in famous cities is an example to us of what success is, what we should all be striving for. Your best life?? Surely, it would be one of fine dining, nights out and hip apartment living in London or New York or San Francisco. You could be a high powered lawyer or hip, ragamuffin tech entrepreneur or a respected doctor, any one of these, they are all what we should be aiming for. If you are hungry, there are more famous restaurants than you could shake a stick at, if you are bored, well, shows, movies, bars, clubs the delights abound! If you want fulfilment, its easy, stroll to town and buy a watch or a phone or some new shoes, that’s what all this money is for, surely, $500 shoes will bring meaning to your life, else, why would they be $500?? And even though this image of success is shoved down your throat with the effort and intensity of a plumber unblocking a toilet afterhours, sometimes you just cant help looking at these cities, these beacons of mans triumph over the elements and mastery of the environment and feel sorry for the poor fools who have to live there.
When made by a trusted companion, the observation that you've left your swag on the porch affords them a quiet chuckle, before they kindly indicate your mistake before it does any real harm.
When made by a man alone, at the end of the day and 10 hours from home, the observation takes on a different form entirely. This time it is a loud observation, impressive combinations of swear words bounce from ridgetop to ridgetop, and from bluff to bluff before soaring high on the wind through gentle white specks of fresh falling snow and away over the tussock. Sharp sounds, guttural and fierce tones that would burn the ears off a priest abound. But, alas, no matter how much heat the words do carry, that fool will be sleeping cold tonight.
'Old Southern Sky'
Old Southern Sky is a tribute to the famous mustering horse Walter who belonged to Muzz Cook, a prominent musterer in the Mckenzie Basin.
Walter was one of the finest geldings to ever come out of the very best of the second tier horsebreeder’s in all of Waimate. Muzz won him betting on club rugby results in Kurow in ‘78. Joining Muzz on mustering exploits from Lake Ohau to Glentanner, Walter quickly became well known to shepherds in the district. If he was snow raking wethers out of deep drifts in mid-July or climbing burning shingle slopes in late January, Walter never faltered. Muzz never let on about the time he lost his entire supply of tobacco when Walter rolled over in a river on the first day out on an autumn muster up Pukaki. No one had seen it and Muzz had replaced his soaked tobacco with ground up snow tussock. He smoked that terrible substitute all week to protect a proud equine reputation. So while it may be true that legends are made mostly off the back of their own works, for every revered Walter held in the highest esteem, there is surely a Muzz nearby smoking tussock grass darts.