Aaron Padilla at the opening of "Degrees of Distinction" at the University of Hawai'i Oct. 25, 2009.

There’s little over a week left to see “Degrees of Distinction,” an exhibition of alumni work at the University of Hawaii Art Gallery. You don’t want to miss it. And not just because Academy Assistant Curator of Education Aaron Padilla is in it. (Although that’s a very good reason. Here he is with his most amibitious wood sculpture to date—the piece, its texture and shapes rising up to the ceiling, kind of makes you just bubble over with happiness.)

It’s an engrossing show that will keep you lingering in the gallery. Gordon Sasaki’s penetrating, loving portraits of friends have the power to make what some might label a “disability” a beauty mark. (Sasaki is now a teacher artist at the Museum of Modern Art.) Jason Minami’s “Gold Grouping,” an archipelago of giant glass pushpins spread across a wall, is one of the most innovative instances of handblown glass I’ve seen in Honolulu. Harold Koda, now the curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, brought a replica of a 1919 velvet “Paris Coat.” There are many more works in the well-curated show that will make you go ‘wow.’ On view through Dec. 11.