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Art Maui 2011 controversial for what isn’t there
Paul Janes-Brown

    Art Maui 2011 has opened and Juror, Hiroki Morinoue has not disappointed in any way. This is an excellent show, with some truly wonderful pieces of art. But the story this year, is about what isn’t in Art Maui. The board voted to prohibit installations from the show. Board President, Jefferson Stillwell said, “The board has come to this decision to ensure that all artists, from all disciplines, have a fair and equal opportunity to be accepted in the juried exhibit.” He has assured installation artists that they will be included in future shows and there is a process being developed to seek their input. Asked why it was not developed for the 2011 show, Stillwell said, “The Installation guidelines were not complete enough to incorporate it into the prospectus so instead of rushing and not putting together a complete submission process we held off until Art Maui 2012.”
    The artist most affected by this decision, Tom Sewell, mounted a clever, humorous, and artistic protest to the decision. Using newspaper photos of the recent world-wide revolutions and statements published about this controversy, Sewell and his menehune, at his Haiku studio, changed posters and headlines to make a series of satirical comments about the situation; actually creating art that, were it entered in the show, could easily have been accepted.


  Ironically, Sewell was not deterred by this decision and was one of the 126 artists of the 377 who submitted 592 pieces, whose work was deemed worthy of Art Maui 2011. In fact, he was one of only 13 artists with two works in the show. Both are photos, and both celebrate the phenomenon of reflection. The larger of the two is a photo that looks like one of those 19th century silhouettes on steroids. The piece is also a tribute to the late artist George Schattenberg. It is a wonderful honor to Schattenberg and to Sewell.


    Sewell’s other piece entitled “Reflection” is accompanied by a W.S. Merwin poem of the same name. It is a fitting tribute to the poet and and the poet’s work is a great reflection on Sewell’s piece. 


    Merwin is the subject of Katharine Hartwig Dahl’s large mixed media work Sing to Me Now: A Tribute, W.S. Merwin. Like most of Hartwig Dahl’s work, it is at once subtle and powerful. She has the ability to present powerful ideas in pastels and pencil.

    While Hartwig Dahl and Sewell celebrate Merwin, Will Herrera has delved into a more abstract exploration of the writers’ influence on us. A Poet’s Pen Never Dies  juxtaposes the life of a writer with her/his primary tool, a pen and puts a smiling Buddha at the back of the poet’s skull. It is a well executed and thought provoking work.

 Another Dahl, Sharon (no relation), has the most overtly political comment in this show. It’s a caricature of our Supreme Court and a commentary about what most legal scholars feel is the worst decision ever handed down by the Supreme Court. MAMMON v. democracy (Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission) is a damning work showing the motivation of the five who voted for the decision and the embarrassment of the four in the minority.


    Forrest Treadwell’s Plastic Safety Net is another work that could be considered political. It’s a photo of the fence outside of the Maui landfill where plastic bags attached themselves like bizarre Christmas decorations. This photo is actually a relic. Since we passed the plastic bag ban in January, the opala has virtually disappeared. Go up and see for yourself. It is a remarkable site.


      The Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and Arts made only three selections this year, Jonathan Y. Clark, Michael Worcester and Jim Stewart. Johathan Y. Clark is a phenom. This young man has consistently been refining and improving his work every show he has appeared in and this work makes him among the youngest to be selected for the State’s priceless collection. Nightmare and Triumph: Momotaro Retold is a stunning triptych that employs photo-realism, abstraction and impressionism in one piece. Clark’s color palate is bold with gold’s and reds featured. This is an exceptional work that bodes well for the future of this young man, who is about to enter graduate school. Remember that name, this young man is headed for greatness!


Michael Worcester’s hand blown glass, Red Abalone, continues the first family of glass’s exploration of natural elements in glass. It’s a fascinating exploration. Look at Bill and Sally’s Ipu in this show. However, Michael’s other piece in the show is pure art and I do not understand why the HSFCA did not purchase it.


    Gravity Dreams is an absolutely stunning, museum quality piece. Each of the vessels has been bent, giving them a soft, almost pliable feel and yet their dreams intersecting support a large sphere while obscuring a smaller one. The title could be a double entendre. Where gravity is both the physical force and the intense feeling. 

    I have not seen Jim Stewart’s work before. He is a Canadian who has quite an impressive resume and the state was enamored of his painting Encouters. His work reminds me of Leroy Neiman. The palate and the impressionism are similar. I like the left arm that is not filled in. It captures the feeling of coming into contact with ones mortality.


    Ditmar Hoerl consistently pushes the envelope and this year his 50 clocks entitled Ideal Citizens is no exception. The clocks are close to the same time, but note that the minute hands are not synchronized. Do the clocks represent the 50 states? It is, as usual, from Hoerl, an intellectually and emotionally challenging piece that makes one smile while one ponders what the hell it’s about.


Jay Wilson’s computer art, hand colored print, proof Dragon demonstrates why this artist is one of the most accomplished computer artists there is. Note the three dimensionality of the work. It looks like impasto! How do you do that on a computer?


Wilson’s other work in the show Flag of Joy is equally exceptional. It has a sumi-e brush quality to it that almost puts it into motion. In these two pieces, Wilson demonstrates the range he is capable of in this new art media of which he is an undisputed master.

Stephanie Farago has given us another celebrity couple. This year it’s Josephine Baker and Charlie Chaplin. I love the coquettishness in the Baker side of the piece and the charming naivete of the Little Tramp. It’s as if, Baker just goosed him. Farago has captured the essence of both of these fabled characters and created a story that is truly delightful and delicious to contemplate. 


One of Maui’s most successful artists, Betty Hay Freeland is not daunted by the possibility of being rejected in a juried show and has given us a rather untypical piece. Known for her panoramic vistas and spectacular sea and landscapes, Hay Freeland’s Edge of Waimoku Valley is almost mysterious. The placement of the floral tree draws the eye and the foggy background gives the work another world quality. It’s as if you were on the edge of eternity stepping from the beauty of life into the unknown beyond. 


George Allen is even more successful than Hay Freeland, he’s been missing from Art Maui having only shown twice since 2004. It’s great to see him back and this work, a miniature, shows why he is one of our most popular artists. The vibrancy and depth of the brush work coupled with the energy flowing from the piece make it a most compelling work. Much more powerful than it’s diminutive size reveals.


M. Tekemoto went through a period of creating disturbing images of historic events. These works were challenging to the viewer and to the jurist, but I always measured a juror and an Art Maui by whether Takemoto was in the show. Lately, he has found a new style, more akin to his cultural heritage, but no less exciting than his previous work. Wabi Sabi V, a huge sumi ink and wax on paper work takes his previous work and puts it under a microscope.


Among our finest pastel artists is Diana Lehr. Her watercolor-pastel Floating Pink is a wonderful impression of the Maui sky. We’ve all seen the remarkable works of art God creates at dawn and dusk. Lehr’s work gives us the feeling, but it catapults the viewer into the golden field. You want to find this place; to roll in the earth and to lie on your back and gaze into that pink.
One of Art Maui’s goals is to give our artists the opportunity to stretch themselves either by exploring a new media or by expanding their style. For example a photo realist might explore abstract expressionism.


Carmen Gardner, the award-winning watercolorist, visited painter, Joseph Fletcher’s studio. Fletcher gave her a raft of oil paints with the encouraging words, “ I think you know what to do with these.” With that she thought, well I better do something and she has, big time. It’s hard to believe this is her first oil painting. The Caldera is another image of the Haleakala Crater, but no matter how many times this most reproduced image is presented, it never fails to beguile. It has infinite possibilities and Gardner’s work makes one hope she continues to explore as many of them as she can.


I think it’s safe to say that Tom Faught is among our most accomplished and celebrated sculptors. Known for his monumental bronzes, Faught has taken a radical turn. He still has a huge bronze in this show, but his acrylic glass and lacquer work, Synapse is where the artist says his work is headed. It’s a fresh start for this established artist and it shows the kind of courageous work Art Maui can inspire. 


I first discovered Tess Cartwright at the marvelous Art of Trash show. I love the whimsy with which she could take plastic jugs and bottles and refashion them into adorable creatures. Cartwright has moved beyond her comfort zone, while still working with recycled materials. This work, Meditation in Green is much more abstract and less whimsical than her previous work. She also seems to be combining more than one receptacle into the work as well.


    If I had the money to purchase Ricardo Vasquez’s Intrinsic Reality, I would do so in a heartbeat. This curly koa, fiddleback English sycamore, silky oak, opiuma bedroom butler is one of the most beautiful pieces of functional art I have ever beheld. I dream of myself emptying the contents of my pockets onto the off centered plate held by the outstretched hand and placing my jewelry and lapel pins along with my studs into the lovely drawers. It is a piece made for fantasizing and I am envious of the one who purchased it.


Tina Lia’s penetrating look at celebrity, reminds us of the price we extract from our entertainers and for our entertainment. She has researched and reproduced in miniature a wide array of magazine covers starting with Michael’s childhood through his final ones. The work also has money all over the walls and floor demonstrating the fortunes to be made and its cost. It is strong piece that elicits equally strong feelings and provides one the opportunity to think about fame. 


Emi Azeka has been creating beautiful straw hats for many years, but this is the first time she has elevated her head gear to a work of art in Art Maui. Her hat is more like a soft abstract sculpture. The composition is eye-catching and the swirl of color feels like the autumn breeze in the northeast. I almost wanted to dive into it like I used to launch myself into a pile of leaves when I was boy back in Connecticut.


Each year, Art Maui chooses an image to publicize the next year’s show. This year, George Berezovsky’s, assemblage, Rhapsody was selected. It’s a highly graphic image and will make a very compelling poster and postcard and any other commercial purpose the Art Maui 2012 committee may see for it.


Judy Bisgard is an artist on the move. You cannot pin this woman down. She is having the time of her life exploring every media she can and mastering them as she goes. You never know what she is going to come up with next. For Art Maui she has given us her impression of a rock wall in wood block and chine colle. The work almost vibrates off the wall and it’s surprising because there is nothing electric or energetic about the palate she has chosen and yet, one cannot deny the energy coming from it.

Go to the show for yourselves; it’s great. The Schaefer International Gallery will be open every day 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and before and during intermission of Castle Theater Shows till April 5.