Palmerston North artist Darcelle Nesser connects with JRR Tolkien on this creative journey

Palmerston North artist Darcelle Nesser with her bollard My Neighbors’ Trees at George St. Photo / Judith Lacy

It’s a story with almost as many worlds and creatures as a Tolkien novel, but at the heart of it is Palmerston North artist Darcelle Nesser.

He was the painter who painted 10 bollards outside Harvey Norman on George St.

The bollard with the trees is key to this story, which also has Tolkien and a Finnish film director as the main characters. There is also an octopus, but more on that later.

Nesser fell in love with the film Tolkien which captures the early life of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, an orphan who initially struggled at Oxford University but went on to write some of the most beloved fantasy novels.

Inspired, she contacted director Dome Karukoski for three words to include on her next bollard and received poetry, memory and separation.

If only he could reach Tolkien, but he died in 1973. The next best option is someone who dedicated a little of their life to recreating the image of the writer and academic, he says.

The bollard, My Neighbors ’Trees, was painted on the first day of this year. Nesser said it – like the other bollards he painted – also gives a glimpse into his life a week before he painted it. She could see the unique cypress trees from her bedroom window.

Darcelle Nesser with her Tolkien-inspired painting on Hobbiton in Matamata.  Photo / Provided
Darcelle Nesser with her Tolkien-inspired painting on Hobbiton in Matamata. Photo / Provided

Because Karukoski was unable to visit New Zealand to see not only the bollard but where The Lord of the Rings at The Hobbit trilogies were shot, Nesser decided to create a painting based on the words given to him by the director. He took then The Walnut Table to Hobbiton in Matamata before being sent to Finland. Karukoski posted on Instagram that he was “deeply honored” to receive the painting.

Nesser found out about Tolkien, the son of an English bank manager born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Ronald created his own language at an early age.

Darcelle Nesser’s painting The Walnut Table, which she gifted to Tolkien director Dome Karukoski.  Photo / Provided
Darcelle Nesser’s painting The Walnut Table, which she gifted to Tolkien director Dome Karukoski. Photo / Provided

For the painting, Nesser included the W words that Tolkien had to define when he helped compile the Oxford English Dictionary in 1919-20: warm, waistcoat, walrus, wait, walnut, wander, want, and wild. Look for the walrus in the red waistcoat and the color of the sunrise dragon, which carries warmth.

So that ticked off poetry (poetry needs words). In March, Nesser left the grid for a month to complete a 10-month course in introductory astrophysics. The painting included his isolation room at the time. As for memory, he describes the thought of the walrus.

“I want to pack as much learning as I can into a painting.”

Nesser started painting two years ago. She was a radiation therapist at Palmerston North Hospital, and thought it would be meaningful to write her autobiography while working in the area where she was born.

She discovered that she couldn’t remember parts of her life so she decided to paint what she would remember. He quickly realized he loved painting, stopped the book, and asked friends for three words he could make into painting.

He then contacted people who were interested in him and his painting gifts have gone to Italy, the UK, France, Hungary, Portugal, the US, and South Africa. He doesn’t sell his work.

Like most things in her life, she reaches out and sees what happens.

Nesser began his three -word project in mid -2020 and plans to continue it for as long as his life allows. He wanted to make each painting more complex than the previous one and put a lot of study into each.

She grew up in New Zealand and Australia and is also a qualified vet nurse. His mojo does things that no one else has done before. His life was uncertain at 16, after a difficult childhood where his creativity was not encouraged.

He didn’t think he would achieve it many times, he didn’t think life would be good. Made and has and he doesn’t want to waste it.

As Tolkien wrote The Incorporation of the Ring: “All we have to decide is what to do in the time given to us.”

His written reflections on his life so far have not been wasted. Then watch My Octopus Teacherdocumenting the year filmmaker Craig Foster spent in a relationship with an octopus in a South African kelp forest, he asked her for three words.

For the first time in his three-word project, he received a phrase, “then I remember”.

“I’ve always been fascinated with underwater life, there’s so much we don’t know and won’t know.”

In the Academy Award -winning documentary, we learn that Foster is tired of himself because of overwork. Her relationship with her son is strained and she doesn’t want to see another camera or editing suite.

While diving, he encounters an octopus who gradually trusts him and decides to visit him daily. His energy returned and he picked up the camera again and he started doing what he wanted and he knew.

Foster said the octopus teaches him to be sensitive to one, especially to wild creatures.

A portion of Darcelle Nesser’s autobiographical painting, Then I Remember, which she sent to South African filmmaker Craig Foster.  Photo / Provided
A portion of Darcelle Nesser’s autobiographical painting, Then I Remember, which she sent to South African filmmaker Craig Foster. Photo / Provided

Nesser painted Then I Remember for Foster. This is his autobiography within a painting. One side contains handrolled paper coils written inside his life story.

“To read this story, the painting must be destroyed. Or one can choose to keep the painting alive but keep the story hidden forever.”

He poured his soul into that painting and he found it hard to let go of it. However, it taught him about goodbye.

While painting the bollards, he met many interesting people and they talked about all sorts of things. He said the summer street art project was probably the greatest thing that happened in his life. He realizes that he is part of this community.

“Tolkien taught me that life can be full of new adventures as long as we allow it and find ways to do things in a new undiscovered way.”