By Victoria Gail-White
Special to The Advertiser
We redefine our existence daily, reprocessing and challenging our abilities, instincts, memories and experiences in a perpetual re-creative approach to our world. How we see that world and what we do about it further defines and redefines us.
Carol Sakihara and Loreen Matsushima materialize their own concepts of "Recycling and Redefining" in their exhibit of new metal sculptures, as well as acrylic paintings and small sculptures created with recycled materials — now on exhibit at Kapi'olani Community College's Koa Gallery.
Sakihara is a metalsmith and lecturer at KCC. Of "New Leaf," a series of four life-size, shield-like, pounded-copper male and female figures, she says, "It's a personal piece. Each figure represents different people I knew who passed on." "Seed," a large circular hollow form, looks more like fabric folds than torched and hammered copper.
Matsushima has been a Koa Gallery board member since 2005 and has taught at the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Her painting "The Ironic Symphony of Nature and Recycled Forms" is a generous-sized, energetic blast of an acrylic painting of one of her photographic studies (which are also in the exhibition). "Returning to Tap" is a small, mixed-media sculpture of a plastic water bottle attached to a faucet fixture.
Both Sakihara and Matsushima received bachelor of arts degrees from the University of Hawai'i in the late 1970s. Ma-tsushima received her master of fine arts degree from Pratt Institute in 1980. Sakihara, after a long hiatus, received her MFA from Indiana University in 2004.
Both artists have been in numerous shows here, on the Mainland and in Europe and Asia. They have been friends since 1986 and share studio space in Kailua.
I interviewed the artists in the Koa Gallery.
Q. What are you actually redefining?
A. Sakihara: "We are both redefining the everyday. When I am doing my artwork, it's packed with emotion. I feel a dialogue, when I am working with the metal, between the metal and myself. It's a process of redefining because I am always thinking — working, thinking and reacting. I rework things all the time, and I recycle the rest of the metal I don't use to the jewelry and three-dimensional design classes I teach at KCC."
Matsushima: "I walk around the Ala Wai almost every day and come home with pockets of bottle caps. It's an economic issue with the caps. They can't recycle the bottle and the cap plastics together, so the caps get thrown out and become a litter problem. I discovered a pile of bottle caps and looked at it from a painter's perspective — the colors, shapes and this symphony going on. I took the bottle caps home and played with them on little canvases. I did some sketches. I was fascinated and began taking photographs of the compositions in their natural setting before painting and including them on my canvases."
Q. Metalsmithing seems like a very dangerous, labor-intensive art form. What attracted you to working in that medium, Carol?
A. Sakihara: "A combination of things. It had some resistance. I liked the push and pull of it and how malleable it was. I started off with very small pieces and in the middle of graduate school they became 8-foot pieces. Part of it was finding ways to work with the metal. Normally, metalsmiths use anvils and different hammers. I found a way to work on the floor and use a sand bag. Just finding these different methods and ... developing my own way of working, made it more exciting. It's called shell forming. When I first started I thought it was meditative, but people asked me if I was angry because I was hammering all the time. For me, it's a combination. It's meditative and it's also exciting. I love holding the metal when I'm working in a larger scale. The sheet metal is shaped, pounded, sculpted and stained. If I don't feel strongly about a piece I'll stop working on it because all the pounding, lifting and torching take so much of my energy. I'm Okinawan, so I guess if I weren't pounding the metal, I'd be a taiko drummer."
Q. You also have small sculptures made from recycled materials in this show. Are you primarily a painter, Loreen?
A. Matsushima: "My degree was in painting, and this show brought me back to my foundations: color field painting and abstract work. My passion is abstract, but I've done just about everything. When I was a little girl, my mother signed me up for painting lessons with a local artist in Kailua."
Q. What message do you hope viewers will take from this exhibit?
A. Matsushima: "Redefine your everyday. A lot of my work started with me looking at myself. I asked myself, what are you doing? How is your behavior affecting what is going on locally? Globally?
I think we need to become more universal. I want my work to be an anachronism of where we are now and in the future."
Sakihara: "I like to problem-solve on how to move the metal. Sometimes, to resolve something, I need to turn it on its side. In "Galloping Fences," I thought about how fences keep things in and out. I opened it up, and it's more freeing. There are no borders. I titled my part of the exhibit "Redefining" because I turn the things I was taught upside down. I always try new and different ways to go about solving the problem."