On Wednesdays, you can usually find Patrick Canonigo watching over the Honolulu Museum of Art School from behind the lobby desk. Though he describes himself as retired, Patrick has worked part-time as a security officer at the museum since 2012. A Kahuku native, he lives on the Windward side and in his spare time tends a quarter-acre plot of land in Kahalu‘u, cultivating kalo, eggplant and microgreens. In his past lives, Patrick has been a marine, a boxing champion (Hawaii All Military  Championship 1971), and vice president of his family’s security business. Today, he says “My mana‘o is to do my job well for Mrs. Cooke,” referring to museum founder Anna Rice Cooke.

Patrick has also spent time monitoring visitors in the new exhibition Abstract Expressionism: Looking East from the Far West, which requires extra security due to the incredible artwork on loan. When asked to share his favorite work in the show, the man of faith described an experience that gave him a new appreciation and understanding of Abstract art.

Standing in front of Franz Kline’s Corinthian II, Patrick says, “I didn’t understand Abstract until working here. The artists have their own perception, the meaning of their titles. The painter has their own perception and the viewers have theirs.” He admits he was initially confused by visitors who said this was their favorite piece in the show, and the anecdote on the wall text describing de Kooning challenging Kline to trace the shadow image of his rocking chair drawing—an exercise that ultimately led to Kline’s signature abstract style.

I don’t see a chair,” says Patrick, “but when I think of the title I see a different meaning, and that meaning is more profound.” That title had Patrick recalling verses 8 and 9 from chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians, and a new picture emerged for him. “You see the man lying down? There are his two feet and his hands and if you stand over here you can see it’s a cross. He’s down and he’s saying ‘We are struck down, but not destroyed.’ It’s a divine message.”

Abstract Expressionism: Looking East from the Far West is on view through Jan. 21, 2018.

Pictured above, behind Patrick Canonigo:
Franz Kline (American, 1910‒1962). Corinthian II, 1961. Oil on canvas. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Bequest of Caroline Wiess Law (2004.26). © 2017 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.