The First Hawaiian Center exhibition program, a partnership between First Hawaiian Bank and Honolulu Museum of Art, features rotating exhibitions of artists living and working in the islands, or with a connection to Hawai‘i. The latest rotation started on Oct. 25 and will run until Jan. 18.

Kaua‘i artist Carol Bennett’s exhibition, Networking and Water, located in the first-floor lobby gallery, features paintings of female swimmers or marine nets floating and submerged in water. Bennett considers her daily swim a spiritual practice that informs her artwork. Painting swimmers led to the exploration of other items associated with the ocean such as marine nets and knots, fish, floats, and sail cloths. Knots carry a dual symbolism for the artist—of the entanglements encountered in life, and of personal connections built over time. A skilled draftsperson, she uses muted color to successfully capture the softened light in the quiet depths of the water. As she works layer by layer, previous marks are allowed to show through the painted surface, or the texture of wood grain or sail cloth is integrated into the composition.


Bennett in front of her artwork.

Equally able to work large or on an intimate scale, her impressionistic Little and Loose series of small paintings appear as fleeting glimpses of swimmers in an underwater world. Translucent paint application and quick, energetic brushstrokes capture the sensation of bodies moving through water. Simplified to essential shape, color, and texture, the result are fluid paintings that bridge the line between abstraction and figuration.

Located in the second-floor mezzanine gallery, Recombination highlights collaborative artists Shawn Spangler and Bryan Czibesz. Spangler, based on O‘ahu, and New York-based Czibesz produce ceramic, foam, and plastic pieces that connect the traditions of the past to the possibilities of the future. The collaborative works in the Dresser Vessels series were inspired by the 19th-century British designer Christopher Dresser, considered to be the first industrial designer. Dresser’s scientific approach to art and design found inspiration in natural forms such as plants and their structures. Czibesz and Spangler’s works in this series question the notion of authenticity. Using Dresser’s original ceramic designs as a starting point, they created machine-made versions through 3D modeling and prototyping. The objects were subsequently reinterpreted and reproduced via hand-made processes. The resulting pieces, four of which are on view, evidence machined and hand-crafted aspects, while retaining a link to the original source material.

Guests in front of Spangler and Czibesz's "Tectonic and Dross."

Guests in front of Spangler and Czibesz’s “Tectonic and Dross: Remarks on the Future Archaeology of Objects.”


For the Precis series, Spangler’s quick, gestural sketches were scanned into a computer, then reconfigured and reproduced in plastic on a 3D printer by Czibesz. Czibesz’ Bögre pieces use porcelain extruded from a 3-D printer programmed to retain the shape of familiar items or family heirlooms. Spangler’s individual objects, such as Ewer and Stand, recombine forms from various cultures and time periods to create unique contemporary vessels. Tectonics and Dross: Remarks on the Future Archaeology of Objects and its companion piece Tectonics, initially appear as sections from an ancient archeological dig; however, the excavated forms have been visibly altered through digital production. Spangler and Czibesz imagine the types of artifacts a future society might leave behind, and in the process create a new aesthetic—indebted to the past, while looking to the future.

Guests browsing "Formations."

Renee Iijima and other guests browsing “Formations.”

Featured in the exhibition Formations, also located on the second floor of the First Hawaiian Center building, are Honolulu-based artists Renee Iijima’s and Taylor Johnson’s mixed media works use symbolic imagery and portraiture to examine how time, growth, death, and decay affect the formation of identity. Iijima’s installation acts as a thoughtful notation on the nature of human existence. Her intimate pieces employ personal iconography including eggs, snakes, and portraits, and reflect on themes of birth, transformation, memory, and mortality. The translucent qualities of glass and composite mica (a naturally occurring mineral mixed with shellac), allow Iijima to work in layers that simultaneously obscure and reveal. Symbolic references to transition and change appear in faces that peer through spider webs, flower buds, moth wings, or egg shells; while reminders of the impermanence of life and inevitability of death can be seen in memento mori images of skulls and snakes.


Guests and Taylor Johnson (on the right).

Guests and Taylor Johnson (on the right).

Johnson’s prints and collages reference family history, childhood, and memory with images of crumbling houses, backyards, and forested areas. Interested in how nostalgia affects recollection, Johnson compares the gradual loss of memory over time to the decay and decomposition of houses and animals as they are reclaimed by nature. While many images come from her family albums, she visits thrift stores or flea markets to seek out additional reference material. Johnson’s works blur the line between the real and imagined, and encourage contemplation of memory as a mixture of history and myth. 

View these exhibitions for free now at First Hawaiian Center.