New public artwork unveiled in Palmerston North by sculpture trust

The Head of John Doe features images of the extinct huia throughout the piece.

WARWICK SMITH/Stuff

The Head of John Doe features images of the extinct huia throughout the piece.

Palmerston North’s latest piece of public art, a reflection of humanity’s efforts to conquer the natural world, has its roots in the resonance of the Tararua Range.

The piece, The Head of John Doe​, was unveiled by sculptor Sean Crawford​ on Sunday afternoon.

Brought to the city by the Palmerston North Public Sculpture Trust​, the piece was installed on Main St between Te Manawa​ and the Palmerston North Conference and Function Centre​.

The work is a doe looking up at a mounted fallow deer head, with the image of the extinct huia featuring throughout.

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The Head of John Doe is the latest public artwork to be unveiled by the Palmerston North Public Sculpture Trust.

WARWICK SMITH/Stuff

The Head of John Doe is the latest public artwork to be unveiled by the Palmerston North Public Sculpture Trust.

The Head of John Doe, like a lot of Crawford’s work, acts as a commentary on how humans interact with the rest of nature.

Crawford said the last confirmed huia sighting was in the Tararua Range in 1907, while he set up his studio in the foothills of the range in 2003 and felt the energy of the hills “resonating in my life”.

“It is that energy that drove this work into existence.”

The Head of John Doe is installed between Te Manawa and the Palmerston North Conference and Function Centre.

WARWICK SMITH/Stuff

The Head of John Doe is installed between Te Manawa and the Palmerston North Conference and Function Centre.

The piece reflected parts of his life, such as how taxidermied deer heads’ piercing eyes would glare at him as a child.

The Head of John Doe was the first sculpture unveiled by the trust since Whaiwhakaaoroaro​, a large gnome with a pīwakawaka and pepeketua resting on it, was put in place on Broadway Ave in 2020.

The trust was also behind Numbers on the corner of Coleman Mall, Who’s Afraid outside The Regent, Te Pūatatangi ki Te Ika a Māui across from Wildbase in The Esplanade and many other public artworks in the city.

Artist Sean Crawford and Palmerston North Public Sculpture Trust chairperson Simon Barnett look at Crawford’s piece The Head of John Doe.

WARWICK SMITH/Stuff

Artist Sean Crawford and Palmerston North Public Sculpture Trust chairperson Simon Barnett look at Crawford’s piece The Head of John Doe.

Trust chairperson Simon Barnett​ said the city’s public art collection had grown significantly since the trust was formed in 2006.

He could now stand in a single spot in Te Marae o Hine/The Square and see 15 different public works, all adding vibrancy to the city centre.

Mayor Grant Smith​ said the trust’s work “embellishing” the city, along with work by other artists, played a big part in the city having a public art collection unparalleled by any other provincial centre.

Public displays encouraged reaction and conversation while enabling everyone to enjoy the arts, he said.

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