Just as Kapo-Laka, Hawaii’s forest deity, appeared to have draped a lei of misty clouds around `Iao Valley’s Mauna Kahalawai, 126 of Maui’s finest artists were similarly adorned in lei of spring green orchids during the highly anticipated Artist Reception, a private affair of Art Maui 2011 that preceded its opening to the public on March 6 and continues through April 2 at the Schaefer International Gallery located at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
Some of these artists had been equally honored in years past, others not, but by the sounds of the chatter, the twitching of nerves, and the level of excitement in the air, it was as if it were a first time for everyone.
Already they knew they had one or more pieces selected for the show – that was the really wonderful side of the day’s event and what brought about all the smiles, hugs and congratulations. But what they and their families didn’t know was just where and how their work was displayed. They also didn’t know whether or not the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (HSFCA) had selected their piece for purchase or even if their work was sold to an exclusive group of benefactors who had dined in the gallery the night before.
So, when Kent Hattersley arrived and took a peek through the glass doors of the exhibit in the hopes of spotting his etching titled “Ho`okipa”, he most wanted to know if his art had been sold, saying, “Yeah, first you hope you get in and second if your art was bought. I’ve been in Art Maui about fifteen times and have entered seventeen. There is no 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place; it’s a juried competition and you’re just being judged on your work. In one of the years I didn’t get in, it was because the juror didn’t like my piece. But that same one got in the next year and was bought by the State. That’s what I like about Art Maui, they (the jurors) don’t know you personally.”
An excited Elizabeth Keller, however, was more focused on finding where her piece was hung and made a quick dash inside the moment the doors were opened. She easily found her 11” x 56” watercolor “View From Haleakala Highway” simply from the shape of it.
“Everyone looks for their piece first,” Elizabeth said. “I feel honored here…a little shivery…because most of us struggle and don’t make a lot of money. We’re not a commodity. I’ve entered three times, the first was seven years ago and I’ve only been selected twice.”
Meanwhile, across the room, Harvey Janis felt invigorated, saying that this was his 8th or 9th time in Art Maui and that he just might be the second oldest artist in the show, offering, “I’m 79. I psyched myself up last year and didn’t get in. Big disappointment. But my photo ‘Readily Red’ by luck made it. One never knows.”
Surely “not knowing” would be the case for this year’s youngest first-time entrant, 23-year-old Jonathan Y. Clark, who admitted to being really nervous because it was such a strong show. Seems he had good reason for his anxiety, because not only did he experiment with a new paint technique in his mixed media titled “Nightmare and Triumph: Momotaro Retold”, but his triptych depicting a popular Japanese fable of a peach warrior, was selected by the State.
“It’s a very, very pleasant surprise,” he said of the HSFCA recognition. “It’s a huge honor and hopefully it will be enjoyed in the public venue. It is my current body of work and a reinterpretation of cultural details… I don’t know what’s going to happen next to my career but I’m sure things will. I just want to keep working and keep showing.”
Another artist and first-time entrant taken by surprise was George Berezovsky, whose mixed media “Rhapsody” was chosen overall for Art Maui’s cover image in 2012. He said that when he was originally informed that he had been accepted into the show, he thought it was a joke.
“I didn’t believe it. I was flabbergasted and thankful and happy! My piece looks like it took two hours to make but it took a year. It was a work in progress that was influenced by someone else. It’s all colorful stuff of the past that you save in a bottom drawer. I had technical problems and I’m still adjusting things,” he said as he moved a violin string to its correct position.
And now that his piece will be on the cover of Art Maui 2012, Berezovsky said, “I will certainly make more of this type of art!”
Seasoned artist Tom Sewell, on the other hand, proceeded to make a big splash along with his entourage by donning a mask and snorkel to pose for the camera in front of his photograph “Palauea Beach ‘Snork n Fork’ Homage to George Schattenberg”.
He happily identified the silhouettes in the photo saying, “That is George sitting making his coffee. You can see who they are by their postures. George just passed away at age 76 but he was founder of our ‘Snork n Fork’ 25 years ago. He would call us every Saturday and give us the weather report for Sunday. We’d swim for about 45 minutes to an hour and then have a gourmet picnic lunch on the beach. My wife and I have been going for 14 years.”
Another seasoned artist, Michael Worcester, made a splash of his own after joining his parents to establish a family of artists whose works have all been purchased by the State.
“It’s still kind of sinking in,” said Worcester after being congratulated. “It caught me by surprise. I’m honored. My parents’ work has been bought by the HSFCA, so I’m up in the ranks. When they announced the State bought mine, it brought the whole mood of the day up and made a good day stronger.”
His piece, an off-centered blown glass titled “Red Abalone”, was part of a series he’d started two years ago in an attempt to push his boundaries and was one of two pieces he entered.
And since pushing boundaries is what Art Maui is really all about, it’s understandable why Emi Azeka’s bright green chapeau of woven cactus, tie dye, and a wili lei made of velvet leaves and feathers was accepted into the exhibit. Fashioned in the shape of `Iao Valley, it was Azeka’s tribute to Kapo-Laka and one of Art Maui’s several pieces on display of wearable art.
She said as the Artist Reception came to a lively end, “I’ve been making hats for 21 years and it’s taken a long time to get wearable art considered art… I am humbled to be in the company of these people.”
Which seemed apparent as she gave due respect to other people’s work much like she did to the goddess Kapo-Laka who, today, must be happily dancing hula beneath the ohi`a-lehua deep in `Iao’s sacred Wao Akua.
~ By Elaine Gallant, 2011
To learn how you can participate in Art Maui 2012, contact Art Maui directly through this website or its Board members, or while visiting the gallery during Art Maui exhibit hours 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM, March 6 – April 2, 2011.
For any of the artists mentioned, search on this website
Reception photos by Karen Bennett