Art Maui 2012 – Witty & Wide-Ranging
By Susan Halas
There’s a lot to see at this year’s Art Maui, the island’s leading juried show for creative people. First there’s the breadth of the show. It has 128 pieces selected from the hundreds submitted. There’s a little bit of everything: paintings, photos, ceramics, glass, woodworking, sculpture, fiber arts, printmaking, brush drawing, jewelry and furniture, it’s all there.
Echos of Many Movements
There are lots of references, some sly and some not so subtle, to earlier movements in the world of arts. Quite a few pieces would be more remarkable if they had not already been done before by Calder, Miro, Hoffman or de Kooning. Think of a movement, such as Dada or Surrealism and something in the room riffs on it.
As always regional pieces make important thematic contributions. These include the photo of the fully loaded cane haul truck crossing the road by Byron Baker. Another good example is the view of cane smoke rising over the valley in the graceful pastel by Kathleen O’Bryan. Many works reference a specific Hawaii place, person or time be it houses from the plantation era, monuments in ceramic with throwback to petroglyphs, or the fishing shrine at Maalaea. They are all about that certain place we call home.
The overall eye for the show seems to come from juror Tom Kolbe. He is professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii’s Art Gallery on the Manoa campus. Kolbe has organized and curated over 200 exhibitions in his 29 years with UH. He was one of the original founders of Art Maui now in its 34th installment.
Perhaps the best part of the show is a certain Where’s Waldo? quality. It’s fun to look for the “in” jokes tucked away in the details of a larger work.
There’s a little fool-the-eye copy of a famous de Chirico surrealist painting tucked away in a trash heap of haul-away junk painted by James Hanlon. Catch the charming and profuse little shrimps in the large abstract brush drawing by M. Takemoto. You’ll only see them if you look closely. Otherwise they seem like blobs in a abstract composition.
These are just two, but there are quite a few that are witty, amusing, nicely executed and certainly worth a second look. Scroll down to see photos of these two.
Witty Is In
Speaking of witty, what do you get when you nail a wooden surfboard to a wooden coffin and put legs on it?
You get a “surfin’ coffin table” of course. That’s the title of one free standing work that takes its cues directly from the Dada school of visual jokes and put-ons. This one adds a nice regional twist. As with most things Dada it it’s vaguely (if not conventionally) useful. It’s also funny and definitely one of a kind. It ain’t cheap though, artist Bhodi Be has a $900 price tag on it. It definitely deserves a place here at home in some Maui collection.
Repeating Patterns Abound
Another reoccurring theme is repeating pattern.There are so many examples it’s hard to pick one or two. One that stands out a series of ceramic heads grouped together with variations in expression and heaped a natural form wooden base. This work by the team of Marylyn Holland and Sam Stephens clearly shows how certain shapes repeat themselves. Here they are done in clay, but you’ll see the repeat motif in oil, in batik, in watercolor, stamped, integrated into a border, or sometimes making a pattern within a pattern.
While most of the work on view is in a contemporary vein, some is ultra realistic and takes a stylistic cue from an earlier century.
The painting Lei Maker by Semyon Bilmes is one of these.
He adopts the style of the late 19th century to show a romantic vision of a young Polynesian woman stringing flowers. He echoes an earlier century right down to the carved and gilded frame. This is a very accurate a 21st century reprise of a style that was popular long ago.
In all there’s a lot to see and much of it repays closer inspection. The show is on view at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center’s Schaefer Gallery Wednesday through Sunday.Hours are 11-5. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
It can also be seen on line at: