Judith Kunzlé is Swiss and came to Rarotonga, the main island of the Cook Islands, in 1986 on a United Nations project to illustrate schoolbooks. She worked for several government departments: Education, Public Health, Agriculture, and has illustrated the local plants and animals for the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust. She has been a full time artist since 1996, focusing on dance and movement.
“To draw movement is a way to enjoy, experience and investigate the feeling of it. The most fascinating movements are those of dancers, and here in the Cook Islands, I had an opportunity to study the specific gestures and moves, and research the impact it had on me – and others.”
Living in different nations has made Judith aware that culture is only skin-deep and that beneath physical features and clothing, we all have much in common. The figures in her works usually can’t be recognized by their facial features, nor do backgrounds reveal where they are. By preventing identification about who and where, Judith draws attention to the powerful and straightforward communication of body language.
“I draw the gestures and moves of Cook Islands dancers that I can feel and relate to, not their exotic-ness. This shared interest has been the point of departure to learn from dancers and understand their art.”
In addition to dancers Judith draws and paints the bodies of the land (landscapes), sea shells, fruit and veggies, her cat and other interesting subjects. The selection and diversity of subject matter is a direct result of her philosophy and research into how feelings can be shared – by going beyond insignificant details and focusing on gesture.
“Some artists wish to build and define their culture, others provide perspectives that emphasize our underlying human nature. Some focus on their natural environment, while others bring attention to political issues. We need a lot of different art by different artists to satisfy our need for soul food – and whoever relates to my works is in my community and I am in theirs.”
Judith Kunzlé’s works are in private collections in the USA, Canada, France, Italy, England, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, New Zealand, Australia, Nauru, French Polynesia, The Cook Islands and China.