Auction offers art from, and for, the heart
By Lynn Cook
Special to The Advertiser
Next Saturday, the successful bidder in the American Heart Association's 33rd Annual Heart Ball will win a personal portrait by two internationally known Honolulu artists who have painted, among many others, sitting American Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter: Eva and Americo Makk.
The Makks have painted together for more than 50 years. Eva and Americo meld their individual styles into single paintings, and their son, A.B., is also a painter with an international following. The three have collaborated on massive canvases.
The Makks' adventures have taken them around the globe to paint cardinals and kings, queens, ambassadors and the people of the land. Makk works hang in the Vatican and in dozens of museums and international collections.
In the 1950s, the Makks were the official artists of the Brazilian government. In 1962, they moved to New York. One day, in 1967, they flew to Hawai'i. Three days later they called their son, A.B., then in his last year of high school in New York, and told him to put the house on the market; they had found a hillside home and were staying in Hawai'i.
When you meet the couple, it is hard to imagine them traveling in a dugout canoe on the Amazon River, as they have. They have the bearing of royalty, but old photos confirm their river story. Even in a vintage black and white photo, however, Eva Makk in a flowered frock looks more like a Vogue photo shoot model than a jungle survivor.
Their work in South America was extensive and vital. In the '50s, the family was invited to paint 13 murals in basilicas and cathedrals. Their most well-known is on the ceiling of the 150-year-old Manaus Cathedral in Brazil, considered the world's largest painted ceiling with a single theme. It was created over the course of two years of seven-day-a-week labor.
The Makks still remember that experience vividly, as they returned day after day to paint on a scaffolding several stories high, creating an image that made the flat ceiling visually arch toward heaven, populated with angels.
They have long been supporters of the American Heart Association. Heart Ball chairwoman Kitty Lagareta says the family showed their generosity well before heart disease afflicted them personally.
Americo Makk had open-heart surgery to replace his mitral valve eight years ago. Son A.B. had heart surgery six years ago to replace an aortic valve.
"We are constantly thankful," A.B. says, "for the heart research that keeps us well."
The artists paint all day, every day. A.B.'s wife, Sylvia Makk, also paints and runs the art business. They travel to exhibit their work on four continents, Sylvia Makk said, "but we can't wait to come back to our garden," which clings to the lava hillside beyond their home. It is filled with flourishing tropical fruits, spices and herbs that make their way directly to Eva Makk's kitchen.
BIDDING FROM AFAR
Interested in bidding on a portrait, but can't attend the Heart Ball? Pamela Campbell, senior director of special events and auction director for the Heart Ball, says bidders in the fundraiser's auction need not be present, or even necessarily in Honolulu. "They can call me from anywhere and I will stand in for them," Campbell said.
That also holds true for a bid on eight nights in an Aman Resort in India and Bhutan, or an iconic baby grand Yamaha player piano, donated by Macy's.
The ultimate man's auction item may be a "man cave," complete with a beverage center, a Sony flat screen and custom cabinetry to hold everything, to be created by Archipelago Island Design.
For the Makk auction donation, the winning bidder can be immortalized in oil. The location can be anywhere, including the Makk's tropical garden or a prized site from memory.
Eva Makk notes that one patron couple asked that they be depicted "in Paris for the rest of their lives." Showing a photo of the wall-sized work, she points and says, "there they are, painted into the perfect Paris cafe."
Lynn Cook is a Honolulu-based freelance writer.