If you visit the museum, then you know the face pictured above. The dapper, charismatic Micah Vargas is on the museum’s frontline as the Visitor Information Center associate. Taking a break from manning the phones, handling walk-ins, and managing volunteers—at the museum’s main campus and at Spalding House, where he also helps coordinate the garden’s facelift—Vargas answered our question: What is your favorite HoMA artwork?
Georgia O’Keeffe’s waterfall paintings:
“I really love those because they remind me why I moved to Hawai‘i. Coming from a pretty flat area in Texas, I was really enchanted by the Ko‘olau range, so much that I decided to make a life change and move here. Since then, I’ve visited ‘Iao Valley—the subject in her paintings—and am so moved at how elaborately accurate her paintings are. Even with her loose and simple brushwork, the one-of-a-kind Hawaiian mountains are perfectly represented in color, in shading, in grandeur.”
Diego Rivera’s Flower Seller (pictured at top):
“I really love this painting because it reminds me of where I came from, and of my childhood visits to Mexico. I saw [scenes like] this all the time while visiting the streets of Mexico—women selling flowers, jewelry, even chewing gum, while nursing and caring for their young children. On one hand, it’s so beautiful because of Rivera’s bold colorful choices, but you can also see the pain and burden in this woman’s face. She’s nursing her child, while also carrying the burden of having to sell flowers on the street, probably to support more family at home. Where is her husband or her older sons? They probably left to work in kitchens and the fields of the North, sacrificing everything to support their family. Mexican people are hard working, often sacrificing everything for the love of family. They fight against overwhelming odds, they show up, and they do their best, even at great personal cost. This painting very accurately represents an extraordinary country I feel very attached to and grateful for. When I look at this painting, I can almost hear the street musicians playing their guitars—and smell her kitchen where her mole sauce has been stewing for days.”