Art Maui 2011 – A Work of Art All Its Own

Somehow, someway, good artists always find the path into your subconscious, evoking an emotional attachment to their work. Perhaps the attachment comes through the beauty of color or texture or maybe even from a whimsical piece that makes you smile or laugh out loud. You look for it because art is an expression and when you study a piece, it can touch you in unimaginable ways.

So too can a collection of art in a gallery, although you might not always be in tune with the way the pieces are hung or how that aspect alone can affect your overall experience. But it does, because a good exhibit provides the path upon which one art piece leads to another and if done well, can evoke an even greater emotional journey.

Understanding this fully is local artist, Joëlle Chicheportiche Perz, who has been installing art for more than 20 years. More recently, it has been for Art Maui — this island’s longest and most anticipated juried event — now celebrating its 33rd year March 6 – April 2, 2011 at the Schaefer International Gallery located within the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. It is an island-wide show on an international scale and one that Joëlle readily admits, keeps her head spinning.

“Art Maui is a little bit of a challenge because of the diversity in styles of the art work,” she says. “Also the Schaefer’s gallery is a large space to design and I have only a short amount of time to imagine how everything can work together.”

In spite of this — somehow, someway — Joëlle makes it happen.

Art Maui Show Chair, Chris Scharein, says, “Joëlle presents Art Maui the same way she presents her own art gallery. When you walk through one of her installations, no matter where you stand, everything is at eye level. We have a complex time hanging Art Maui with so many different pieces but when you can do that, that is a perfectly hung show.”

Joëlle says, “I have to trust my intuition. The goal is to find the way that every piece of art stands out. If I do a good job, the installation of the show works as an art piece itself with how people walk in and view it. Each piece is an individual art stroke and the show is a visual exploration. Hopefully viewers will feel that.”

Joëlle relies on her experience of seeing the space from both an artist’s and an installer’s point of view to achieve her goal.

As a multi-media artist, Joëlle has developed an art form all her own with oil and acrylic on carved wood, a technique maturing from years of professional study and work in printmaking and painting.

"Native Imprint" by Joëlle C.

"Native Imprint" by Joëlle C.

Her woodcarving titled Native Imprint will appear on the cover of Art Maui’s 2011 program, and is what she calls, “a tribute to the show’s philosophy that artists should push themselves creatively to be considered.” Having done that with this piece, Joëlle clearly appreciates what artists go through and understands that art doesn’t just happen.

“They have to be courageous to even present their work,” Joëlle says of every artist who is eventually accepted. “This show represents all different states of mind and is a reflection of the artist’s self. This show reveals their view of the world.”

Joëlle is also founder and Art Director of Viewpoints Gallery in Makawao, Maui since 2003 and has installed there so many times that she feels she has finally found the best use of her gallery’s space. Even so, the challenges for Art Maui and the Schaefer are quite different and she must deal with them in the quickest way possible.

One difference is that she has no control over the selected artwork. That is the job of the juror, who this year is Hiroki Morinoue from The Big Island of Hawaii and who holds a BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts and spent several years in Japan studying sumi brush painting and woodblock with Sensei Koh Ito and Takashi Okubo, respectively.

“I trust Hiroki,” Joëlle says of the artist with whom she once studied various techniques of woodblock and painting on wood. “He is a great artist with a universal knowledge of art as well as a good sense of the Hawaiian culture.”

Once Morinoue has made his decisions and Joëlle has all the pieces around her, her bigger challenges begin. So, she simply steps back and dreams — visualizing and designing how she will create that emotional attachment to the viewer’s journey.

“I impregnate myself with the art and spend a bit of time with it. I look for key pieces that stand out. I look for an entrance piece that could be a painting or a 3-D piece or both. I look at the spread of styles, whether it is realistic, abstract or whimsical and I try to see what the artist was trying to do. I see how the pieces relate to the others and I look for harmony,” she says.

She then works the design out on a computerized model of the Schaefer developed by Richard Nelson, one of Art Maui’s six original organizers, the others being Janet and George Allan, Marian Freeman, Tom Klobe and Robert Bush. She follows this with an actual floor model, moving miniature walls at will.

When satisfied, Joëlle then spends the next four days with the installation team, making sure that every corner of the Schaefer has its beauty and that when someone walks through the gallery, every piece of art is visible in its best possible light. The show becomes an actual work of art and a space she fills with a vibrancy all its own.

“It must sing,” Joëlle adds. “Every piece must make sense. It must flow. I will not have a piece by itself without something to complement or contrast it… I make groupings that work together. It always works out for some reason. We always find a place for every piece.”

Of the overall experience she admits, “I go the extra mile because there is nothing like Art Maui. The founders were so brave to see what was needed and to start something like this for Maui. They brought that kind of spirit to the show and it helps the artists. Art Maui is one the best, most prestigious shows to be a part of. I would think most artists would say that too. It is a huge installation and I could not do it on my own. It’s nice that I have the trust and support of everyone and I am honored to install for Art Maui.”

~ By Elaine Gallant, 2011

For more on Joëlle C. Perz, go to

Joëlle C. was born in Paris and acquired her Fine Art and Art History education at the University of Aix-en-Provence. Studying with masters of mural painting in Mexico, printmaking in San Francisco, deepening her knowledge in interaction of colors and recently exploring woodblock carving on Maui are a few of the stepping stones on her artistic journey.

Her voyage to Maui – where she has resided since 1982 – parallels her own journey to the heart. Attracted by the merging of cultures in a place where nature is still in the making, Joëlle found what she was looking for: a home for her family and a peaceful, yet inspirational and vital environment to do her work. Living close to the nature she loves, her paintings reflect an intimate joy for color, light and a poetic approach to reality.