Curator of European and American art Theresa Papanikolas, along with staff from departments across the museum, are working full steam ahead on Art Deco Hawai‘i, opening July 3. The beautiful catalog just came in from the printer; the sumptuous murals by Eugene Savage, commissioned in 1938 by Matson, arrive this week from California; and cool merchandise featuring artwork from the show are is on its way. In the meantime, here’s a look at one of the works you’ll see in the exhibition.
Agnes Lawrence Pelton (American, 1881–1961)
Oil on canvas
Collection Michael and Linda Horikawa
The German-born American artist Agnes Lawrence Pelton is best known for her paintings associated with the American West and Southwest. But she also traveled to Hawai‘i as the guest of her cousins, Theodore and Mary Atherton Richards, and while here she painted portraits and views of island landscapes.
In this painting she focuses on the ginger flower, which grows prolifically and in several varietals throughout Hawai‘i. Like Lloyd Sexton, whose painting of yellow ginger will also be in the exhibition, she liquidates the species of its natural multiplicity to picture a uniform series of nearly identical cascading blooms, arranged in a rhythmic pattern whose lush ornamentation contrasts with the geometric planarity of the plant ’s equally harmonious leaves. A simple palette of pink and green further reduces the composition to a graceful formal rhythm.
Interesting side note: One of Hawai‘i’s best-known dancers, Simeon Den, owns and lives in, with his partner Peter Palladino, Pelton’s home in Cathedral City, Calif. Pelton built the home in the 1930s and died there in 1961. Den and Palladino have restored it and founded the nonprofit Agnes Pelton Society, which aims to promote the life, art, and legacy of the artist. See an article about Den, Palladino, and Pelton’s house.