Artist profile: Deirdre Parr

Allyson Hamblett profiles fellow artist Deirdre Parr

Deirdre Parr in the studio

Deirdre Parr in the studio

Deirdre Parr started coming to Māpura Studios with her mother, Tui, in 2013.  Tui had had a stroke and Deirdre persuaded her to start art therapy classes, but soon discovered she also wanted to be creative at Māpura Studios.  She found art was a good way to deal with her own ongoing health issues.  It was a way of processing what she was going through and especially so since Tui’s passing.  Deirdre started in Art Transition class, but now she is in Living A Creative Life class on Thursday morning.

Leading A Creative Life provides a supportive, instructive and stimulating environment for people living with stroke-affect (or similar disability), to develop a strong visual arts practice. Twice a term there will be a workshop or a tutorial that focuses on the learning requirements of the group and individual learning needs; once a term a guest ‘professional’ artist will present on their arts practice. The remaining time is ‘open studio’ where participants work independently and are self-directed in their choice of content and subject matter. Tutors provide on-going input regarding methodologies, techniques, media and guidance re subject matter so artists are supported in the ongoing progression of their art making capabilities and knowledge base.

Arts Transition is a focused programme that continues to support people making the transition from the Māpura Studios intensive Arts Therapy programme (which is aimed at people dealing with the initial trauma of sudden disability in stroke–affect), to eventual involvement in “Leading a Creative Life”, (a programme designed to assist people in their ‘new identity as practising visual artists’). 

Hope, Deirdre Parr, 2016

Hope, Deirdre Parr, 2016

Deirdre enjoyed print making in the Arts Transition class, but most of her work now is one object on a stylised background.   “There is a spiritual element to art”.   Creating Icons in her art practice is what gives Deirdre meaning:  it is a “process of spiritual reflection”.  One particular work stands out for this artist, Hope, which was of a lotus:

In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus is symbolic of purity of the body, speech, and mind. While rooted in the mud, its flowers blossom on long stalks as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. It is also symbolic of detachment as drops of water easily slide off its petals.


There is a great sense of achievement for Deirdre, seeing her own work exhibited, and this affirms what she is doing is valuable.   She recalls an exhibition at Studio One in 2015, being absolutely   surprised to see how great her print of a clam shell looked all framed up and hanging on the wall in a gallery.  The clam shell piece was a connection to her grandfather who was part Samoan.

Icons, spirituality, the search for wholeness and healing, and the love of beauty in nature and in life inspires Deirdre to make art.  She has been creative all of her life.  Growing up she would make her own clothes and has a very creative family.  Deirdre has two older brothers and a younger sister.  One brother is a poet and David is a good musician and artist.  Deirdre played cello at school and has sung in choirs all of her life, most recently with Auckland based chamber choir Viva Voce. 


Since 2013 Deirdre has been looking after her mother, Tui, and has been dealing with her own health issues, but now Deirdre is about to become a university student again to complete her Graduate Diploma in Theology.


Deirdre loved how the Māpura community embraced Tui and gave her a sense of self-worth and self esteem.  Deirdre feels the same way about how Māpura has embraced her,  “Māpura is a place where people are empowered and their self-worth is affirmed through art making – they are given a voice.”