Last Tuesday, the eight artists selected for Artists of Hawai‘i 2015 gathered in museum director Stephan Jost’s office for an introduction to the upcoming exhibition, some words of guidance, and to meet each other and do presentations of their work. For Jost, it was especially to meet each other and see each other’s work.
“We hope your work will influence each other,” said Jost. “I can’t name a single important artist who didn’t know other important artists”—even the notoriously unpleasant Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh had each other (for a time).
If, concluded Jost, we walk into the show, which opens July 2, and “we see eight solo shows, we will have failed.”
Each artist gave a brief presentation of past and current work, and there were a lot of questions being asked, about concepts, techniques, processes. The sharing has begun! (Pictured above, left to right: Maile Yawata, Alison Beste, Elisa Chang, Emily McIlroy, Lauren Trangmar, Jesse Houlding, Duncan Dempster, Akira Iha.)
The artists are a diverse sampling of Hawai‘i’s art community, from O‘ahu-born-and-raised art scene veteran Maile Yawata to University of Hawai‘I student and New Zealand transplant Lauren Trangmar.
Duncan Dempster, representing the printmaking collective .5ppi, revealed that the group will show not just prints, but a video of sequences made from works using a modular print technique they have developed. The collective is currently working on a huge commission in Kaka‘ako, putting up a 1,500-foot long work on a wall surrounding a building project. .5ppi members print during the week and put up 11 x 15 sheets on the weekends.
Alison Beste talked about her fascinating Oil Tanker Sunset series. “What you see is not always what you get,” she said, as she shared her long-exposure images of the ocean horizon from Waikīkī and Kewalo Basin that turn passing tankers into faux sunsets. The works bring to mind so many issues.
Street photographer Elisa Chang, who patrols the sands of Waikīkī a couple times a week with her Sony rx100 II, going from the zoo to the Royal Hawaiian and back, showed visual treasures she has captured in her searches for accidental, awkward beauty.
Jesse Houlding, who moved to Hawai‘i Island 18 months ago from California, showed video of his “magnet drawing”—the brilliantly named Ferrous Wheel, and “truck paintings” created by having a shotput roll around on inked paper in the bed of his truck. For Artists of Hawai‘I, he is now working with light and water, filming light reflecting off what he calls a water vortex. Some of the results echo Thomas Wilfred lumias.
Painter Akira Iha, who moved from Japan to Maui 30 years ago to windsurf, showed images of his paintings inspired by his tours of Zen temples, teahouses, and historic ruins in Japan and Okinawa.
Emily McIlroy, who teaches at the museum’s Art School, talked about how the loss of her twin brother in 2007 created a “new physics” for her. With her life flipped upside down, she made a big move (to Hawai‘i) and found a new direction her large-scale, labor-intensive work that is rooted in her “lifelong connection to nature.” It can take her up to two years to complete a project.
Lauren Trangmar walked her peers through her “Considerate Vandalism” series, in which she combined traditional and digital processes to create installations that she put up on the University of Hawai‘i campus walls, such as “Ugh” written in a pretty script in moss—yes, the kind that grows on rocks.
And finally Maile Yawata paraded her engaging rogue’s gallery of characters she creates and places in intriguing stories, like the crew of Chinese pirates she dreamed up and put onto paper. She also creates ceramic figures, builds elaborate sets for them and photographs them, film-like, in dramatic scenes, changing the expressions of their faces with strategic lighting.
Now that we’ve seen what they’ve done, we can’t wait to see what they create over the next seven months. Curator of contemporary art James Jensen just finished his first round of studio visits with the artists.
We’ve invited them all to share their process and progress on this blog—keep checking in to see what they’re up to.