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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Art conveys the essence of Hawai'i

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

Hawai'i's new State Art Museum opens Sunday and it's a knockout. There's so much there for local folks, I don't know where to begin. This is an art museum that's about us.

More important, the art is the most diverse, sophisticated and provocative expression of Hawai'i's identity you'll find anywhere. Not just because the artists are connected to Hawai'i but because they're good.

They have applied a world-class creativity to depicting impressions of Hawai'i, its people and its cultures — subtle or powerful or primitive or humorous or loving. Don't worry if you can't recognize the names of many of the artists. I didn't, either.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The 350 works on exhibit come from the 5,000-piece collection of State Foundation for Culture and the Arts.

What we've got here is a family art show. Museum director Lisa Yoshihara was telling a woman about the crown-flower quilt by Josephine Hanakahi. The woman said, "Oh, she's my mother," and hugged Yoshihara.

The more you know about Hawai'i's history, cultures and local idiosyncrasies, the better you'll like the exhibit.

Frances Pickens, who taught art for years at Kamehameha Schools, did an elaborate Hawaiian necklace in sterling silver. Look closely and you'll see that the pendant is a feather cape.

Masami Teraoka painted a Japanese tourist talking to a haole girl while swimming at Hanauma. But the tourist looks like a samurai and the girl looks like a geisha; the text is Japanese calligraphy.

Provocative statements about us pop out. A sculpture titled "Komo Mai" shows a pair of boots and rubber slippers on the steps.

Vietnamese artist Phan Barker lived through the war there. The pain it caused is expressed in a sculpture made of broken branches and gray fabric the color of the mud.

The section for Hawai'i's Japanese artists is probably the most refined, abstract and intellectual. Twenty-five exquisite, small sculptures in copper constitute the biography of Satoru Abe, the evolution of his artistic life. The works of Tetsuo Ochikubo, Isamu Doi and Bumpei Akaji chat with Abe like silent rocks in a Japanese garden.

A jury of Hawai'i's top art directors, curators and artists chose the pieces: Momi Cazimero, George Ellis, James Jensen, Tom Klobe, Greg Northrop, and Duane Preble. Free tickets timed between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.on opening day are available at Borders and Native Books in Kapalama while they last. The museum is at Hotel and Richards streets.

Reach Bob Krauss at 525-0873.