CONTACT 2016: Foreign and Familiar

Mar 24, 2016

Juror Herman Pi'ikea Clark holds a piece by Scott Fitzel in the gallery at the Honolulu Museum of Art School.
Credit noe tanigawa

  The Pu‘uhonua Society’s annual CONTACT exhibition opens tonight at the Honolulu Museum School.  This year, artists across the state were encouraged to dig for personal reflections on the theme of “Foreign and Familiar.”  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa stopped by after the selection process to get the jurors’ thoughts on the show.

CONTACT 2016 opens tonight, March 24th, 5 to 8pm at the Honolulu Museum School, with entertainment and refreshments.  A keiki workshop, panel discussions and ‘awa storytelling are among related events running through April 17.  

“Not to at all say that we’re trying to make people feel warm and fuzzy but we really were looking for something personal.”  Art critic, curator, Isabella Ellaheh Hughes, is artistic director of the Honolulu Biennial.  Today, she’s a juror for CONTACT 2016.

“Someone who’s making a statement for the sake of making a statement, however clever or just that statement might be, that’s really not what’s gotten in today, what we’ve been choosing.”

Juror Isabella Ellaheh Hughes with a piece by Page Chang, "Revolutions," printed kapa, natural dyes, soot, clay.
Credit noe tanigawa

“That’s true.”

Artist, designer, educator, Herman Piikea Clark is the other juror.  He’s been teaching and designing in Aotearoa after leaving his mark, bold and Pacific, here in the ‘90’s.  He remembers outrage at history producing much angrier art then.

“Belonging to that generation of yellers and demanders it’s really refreshing to see people presenting works that aren’t necessarily that.  I’m seeing …a growing confidence in our own esthetic and our own voice over here in Hawai‘i.”

We turned a corner in the gallery and came upon a piece by Scott Fitzel.  Imagine a 6 foot surfboard with the tail section narrowed to a handle shape.  Fins are inset like shark’s teeth protruding along the rails and nose—it’s a surfboard slash leiomano, shark tooth club.

“What I mean about confidence is that Scott’s from outside, and yet he feels confident enough to be able to..and good on him!  Nobody’s going to slap Scott over the head for doing it like that.  I think that’s a great thing, we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously.  It is an appropriation, and I’m sure there will be people who turn their eyes over but this is our art community and this is Hawai‘i’s art.  He’s taking something from Hawai‘i and he’s bringing some real honor to it and at the same time helping us reconnect with something that was really an awesome shape and an awesome form.  I’m so proud of him and I’m so proud of the piece.”

Clark says he would ask the artist, what are you going to do next?

Hughes walked over to a piece by Page Chang saying, “I think we’ve seen a lot of artists take traditional materials and rework them in a contemporary context.”

Chang’s multi-part piece, “Revolutions”, combines kapa with natural dyes and plexiglass prints.  Hughes says they were looking for different takes on the theme of “Foreign and Familiar”, and she was glad to see the ideas applied to fashion by A.J. Feducia and the Paradise Cove Collective.  You’ll enjoy seeing the two aloha print straitjackets.

Quite a few artists, like Nina Yuen who exhibits in NYC, are showing in Honolulu for the first time.  The Pu‘uhonua Society’s Maoli Arts Alliance ensures Contact openings are a family style pa’ina, kids, kūpuna, and art.  And Contact 2016 continues—there’s ‘awa storytelling, a repurposing workshop with Bernice Akamine, and opportunities to kukakuka, talk story about art making in Hawai‘i today.