Milestones at Art in the Park

2008-05-22 00:00

THERE are two familiar Nashua Art in the Park faces marking milestones at this year’s exhibition, opening on May 28 in Alexandra Park. One is miniature artist Beth Freeman-Kane, showing her work for the 10th time, and the other is Wendy Mills, whose 25th — and final — visit this is.

Freeman-Kane’s delicate, tiny models of birds, accurate in every detail and set in naturalistic backgrounds, regularly sell out on the first day of of the exhibition. She will be taking about 25 pieces to the show this year — she says that the demand for her work is so high that she never manages to build up a bigger stock. And each piece takes time to create — time Freeman-Kane has to juggle around looking after her three children.

At the moment, she is riding on the crest of a wave. At the recent World Exhibition of Miniatures, held in Tasmania, she won the award for People’s Choice Best on Show. The World Exhibition is held once every four years, in a different country. It is the “World Cup” for miniature artists, and is a huge feather in Freeman-Kane’s cap. She was not there to receive the award, but had sent three of her pieces to Tasmania.

Wendy Mills has decided that this will be her final appearance after a quarter of a century, during which time she has been the top seller twice and is always among the most successful artists. Later this year, she will be moving to Edinburgh, and the Drakensberg and Zimbabwe scenes that have been her trademark work will probably give way to scenes of Scottish lochs — although, as Mills says, there are so many South Africans and Zimbabweans in the UK that there will no doubt be a demand for paintings to remind them of home.

This year, as usual, Art in the Park will see a painting donated to be raffled for Lifeline, and it seems particularly fitting that it is one of Mills’s. It is an acrylic on canvas, a view of the Amphitheatre in the Drakensberg, valued at R3 500. “I thought it would be a particularly nice one to donate,” says Mills, talking about what is a particularly iconic KwaZulu-Natal view.

And while she is excited about the challenges — artistic and otherwise — that lie ahead, she is sad to think that this is the last time she will sit under the plane trees in Alexandra Park, chatting to art buyers, browsers and her fellow artists.

• Art in the Park runs from May 28 to June 1. Hours are 10 am to 8 pm Wednesday to Saturday and 9 am to 4 pm on Sunday. Entrance is R10 with children under 12 allowed in free. For more information, contact Pietermaritzburg Tourism at 033 345 1348.

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