Abby Cunnane

Abby Cunnane (b.1982) is a curator who lives in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She is co-editor of The Distance Plan, a journal about art and climate change, with artist Amy Howden-Chapman, and writes Index Finger website with Carmel Rowden.

01    NOSTALGIA: What was felt more deeply because it took you back to your past?

All the time I was growing up there was a piece of solid green glass, about the size of a hand closed in a fist, on my grandmother’s mantlepiece. I was slightly afraid of it, and couldn’t stop looking at it. When she died in February two years ago I immediately thought of the glass; I’m no longer afraid of it but still it seems like something magic and strange about my grandmother. I never asked why she had it. Now it’s sitting now on our bookcase, like a chunk of solid seawater.

02    DETAIL: James Salter wrote: “Life is weather, life is meals.” Describe a meaningful moment involving each in the last month.

It’s been so hot in Auckland the avocadoes are cheap and perfect. We buy a few at once, hard as cannonballs, and leave them to ripen in the kitchen. Recently, coming home late after a night out, I found one that seemed just perfectly ready, ready that minute, and couldn’t wait until morning. I halved it and ate the whole thing, one side then the other, with a teaspoon and salt and cracked pepper. The huge moon was out our window, kind of leaning on the apartment block in front of us, an exactly avocado-shaped moon.

03    ADJUST: What are you amid that is almost (but not quite) right? A draft, a relationship, an injury…what needs refinement and attention?

When I was about 16 I injured my hip doing athletics, and when it was getting better a physiotherapist told me that it would never heal if I always sat on the right side of my butt only, as I habitually did. I managed to change the habit, though sometimes if I’m tired I still find it comforting to sit on one side only, or stand with all my weight on one leg. Right now I have a shoulder that’s injured – I think from carrying heavy totebags of books - and I’m trying to adjust to being a left-armed-bag-carrying person. It’s difficult, sometimes it seems better just to have a sore shoulder.

04    INDULGENT: When were you indulgent?

We’ve been traveling for a long time, so we’re feeling indebted to a lot of friends and acquaintances who hosted us and were ridiculously generous with their time and energy. When someone comes to stay at our place now I feel like I should shower them with small thoughtful things, lend them books, and draw them maps. Our friend Jeremy came to stay earlier this month and now I realize I am probably about the same as always when it comes to indulging guests: buy a nicer bottle of wine, stay up a bit later, and try to compel them to climb up the volcano near our house.

05    SELF-INDULGENT: When were you indulgent?

Last weekend we stayed at Huia, which is on the Manakau Harbour near Auckland. The house there was built by the Barr family in the 1920s. The morning after we got there I realized there was an old peach tree in the yard, its top covered in peaches. I spent maybe an hour up the tree that weekend all up, and ate more peaches than I could count. They were gold and slighty rose on the skin, then hot pink around the stone.

06    MINOR SECRETS: Describe something you did in private.(Perhaps not a "secret," but maybe something that never occurred to you to share…)

Recently we painted the laundry wall black. As I was taking down shelves in preparation I accidentally tore a bracket from the wall, leaving a ragged hole the size of a wristwatch. After trying to fix it without much success, I covered it with a beautiful postcard image I have from my friend Elenor Cooper’s exhibition last year, a kite.

07    PARE BACK: Did you simplify something?

This year I am not going to be a workaholic. This means I am going to be studying language (Māori) in an immersion class four days a week, working one day. I’ll travel each day on the train to class, and home, and this will be the main thing in my week.

08    CULTURE LIST: What was read, watched, seen, listened to? And consider the ratio between the mediums.

Lucia Berlin’s short stories. She reminds me of Lydia Davis (who was a friend of Berlin’s). I often remember them as if they were movies.
Hannah Goldfield’s restaurant reviews in the New Yorker: “On a recent evening there were oily, pleasingly gummy Cantabrian anchovies, laid atop half a disk of vanilla-compound butter, a weirdly winning briny-sweet combination…” How can I ever forget this sentence, or the combination?
Tide charts: swimming in our harbour, high tides are necessary unless you want to swim in miso-like water with oyster shells. I usually have a tide chart window open on my phone.


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Magic glass

Magic glass

The seasons and the tides: a chart

The seasons and the tides: a chart

Lucia Berlin with her sons Jeff and Mark in Acapulco, circa 1961

Lucia Berlin with her sons Jeff and Mark in Acapulco, circa 1961