Urban Eden: Honolulu Biennial at Foster Garden

Mar 28, 2017

Yayoi Kusama's Footprints of Life has been exhibited around the world in different formations and environments. Going makai on Nu'uanu Avenue, look right as you hit Vineyard, there they are! Meant to represent islands in a green sea, everybody looks good with them.
Credit noe tanigawa

Not just the art crowd, it’s everybody battling to get into Yayoi Kusama’s infinity Rooms at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington.  Tickets sell out in minutes, and viewers still have to wait hours for their 20 seconds in each room!  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports eagle eyed art lovers have spotted our own Kusama installation in Honolulu, her pink spotted Footprints of Life, part of the Honolulu Biennial at Foster Garden.

Joshlyn Sand is the new Director of the five Honolulu Botanical Gardens. A horticulturist, she's pictured here with flowers from the shaving brush plant, one of Queen Emma's favorites. An unidentified rogue artist created this beautiful top hat for the Japanese stone lantern.
Credit noe tanigawa

The Honolulu Biennial continues at Foster Garden and eight other venues in Honolulu through May 8.  Foster Garden is open daily from 9 - 4pm.  Check their workshop on ceramic succulent planters April 22nd.  Docent tours are available.  See another artwork by Yayoi Kusama at the IBM Building.  

Workshop: Ceramic Succulent Planters
Date/Time: Saturday, April 22, 1:30-3 PM
Instructor: Garid Chapman
Location: Foster Botanical Garden

Monthly docent-led tour of Foster Botanical Garden on Saturdays from 11-11:45 AM:
March 18
April 15
May 6

This Quipo tree from Panama near the entrance to the garden has just begun coming out of dormancy. Foster Garden Director Joshlyn Sand says tropical trees need rest too. The wood of this tree is strong and light, like balsa, we're looking at leaf buds, which will soon start to open.
Credit noe tanigawa

Weekly docent-led tours of The Hub (former Sports Authority, located at 333 Ward Ave)
Thursdays, 5:30-6:15 PM
Saturdays, 1:30-2:15 PM

Monthly docent-led lunchtime tour of Honolulu Hale on Tuesdays from 12:-12:30 PM
March 28
April 11

There it is, it’s beginning!”

“Ladybugs.  I thought it was ladybugs.  Looks like ladybugs.”

Kanani Silva and  Danelle Mokuau work for Bank of Hawai‘i ---they’re volunteering for the Honolulu Biennial by keeping watch over Kusama's Islands of Life installation.. 

“To have artists from around the world and our artists here in Hawai‘i be able to exhibit for the duration of two months, it brings people out to things that they normally don’t see.  We were just saying, we’re not here very often.  I’m really excited to see it all.”

Joshlyn Sand is Director of Honolulu’s Botanical Gardens—Foster Garden is one of five.  “We've had a really good visitorship bump.   Weekends are particularly busy.”  That’s what a Biennial’s about—art animating unexpected places all around the city.

Andrew Binkley. Stone Cloud. Positioned twelve feet above the pathway, this floating boulder actually weighs about 100 pounds and keeps its shape by means of air blowers.
Credit noe tanigawa

“How’s that for a piece of art?"  Sand points to an amazing expanse of trunk lifting majestically skyward.  "That was installed before the Biennial.  That’s a quipo tree from Panama.  It’s actually one of our younger trees, it was planted in 1930.  She’s just now coming out of a dormancy, tropical trees sometimes have to have a rest sometimes too.  She’s been dormant, and now you can see the buds there ready to flush out.”

Kupa'a Hee, ceramic ipu. The quite beautiful rose ring parakeets pictured here are voracious feeders who travel in noisy groups, eating every seed in sight. Hee has watched them spread from Waikiki and Manoa to Nuuanu and Kalihi.
Credit noe tanigawa

Sand:  “Monet, Matisse, Frieda Kahlo, Kandinsky, all gravitated to gardens, they had their own great gardens, and so the marriage of art and a garden to me is just woven into one big piece.  Each artist came into the garden and looked at the place very carefully.  They interpreted where they thought would be the best place, to fit the garden and fit their piece, together.  We really enjoyed working with them.”

Sand:  “Right here we have Stone Cloud by Andrew Binkley.  He picked the perfect place I think.  The installation was tricky.  He had to consider the weight and the swing of the piece.  For those who can’t see, this is a stone cloud that is mounted up in the air, about 12 feet in the air hanging over so you can walk under it.  He had to rope it into three different trees over there to anchor it correctly.”

Sand:  “He’s speaking to the ideas of permanence and impermanence, transcendence, and Buddhist messages and he’s very closely positioned it to the Daibutsu area here in the Garden which has our statue of Buddha.  You come along the corner and then you see that, and the art just marries perfectly to the garden and it’s different from all angles!”

This is the Cannonball Tree from Guyana. Its flowers have a sweet spicy smell and its fruit, cannonball sized, is quite fleshy and possibly dangerous. You can tell by the many signs nearby saying, Watch for falling cannonballs.
Credit noe tanigawa

It’s like if gravity suddenly let go, that’s what you would see.  “People love this, kids love this one especially.”

Are people allowed to walk in here?  This is as much a delightful installation as anything.

Sand:  “Somebody took a flower from this tree right above it, it looks like little pink shaving brushes.  This was one of Queen Emma’s favorite sflowers.  You’ll see it down on Queen Emma Square by St. Andrews.  Somebody spent some time, collected them from all over there, brought ‘em over here.  And they did the bottom row too.  Guerilla artist!”

Flower of the Cannonball tree. Wow.
Credit noe tanigawa

Oh thank you, whoever did it!  This person just did it just for us to enjoy.   “Just cuz.”

Sand:  “Over here, Kupaa Hee has ipus.  He’s used an Italian etching style on these to put science and conservation messages on these ipu.  You’ll see invasive species, and cultural icons on these telling stories.  These are one of my favorites, I think they’re beautiful."

One ceramic gourd, or ipu, is titled “For the Instas” with a cell phone pictured next to an endangered tree snail.  Artist/environmental scientist Kupa’a Hee, says social media is impacting Hawai‘i’s most remote places….because increased traffic degrades the environment.  Rose ring parakeets, rats, sharks! Appear on these ipu, but people could be the most destructive.  

Hee:  “They’re only there because they read on some blog or web post how to find this one flower that’s endangered.  And the fact these places are being exposed in that way on social media is dangerous!  One to the hiker, and two, to the organism because of increased traffic around that area.  How intrusive we are is an issue that’s become magnified because of social media and social currency.”

Social currency being the props we get for posing with whatever, i.e. “Look at me--with this!”

Sean Connelly. Thatch Assembly with Rocks (2060s). Recalling a traditional Hawaiian hale, the thatch is made of native loulu palm fronds gathered in Foster Garden. They will be recycled for use in traditional building after the installation.
Credit noe tanigawa

We’re looking up a towering tree with tangles of Medusa like vines projecting flowers from its trunk.

“This is the cannonball tree.  If I had to pick a favorite tree I’d pick this one from Guyana.  The flower is amazing.  It smells like allspice.  And these tendrils we’re seeing, the little vines that are on its trunk, They actually allow the tree to produce more fruit and flowers.  It’s a way of the plant having more of a support structure to propagate itself.  It’s the smartest tree in the garden!”

Sean Connelly. Thatch Assembly with Rocks (2060s) (detail). Connelly's piece deals with the use of traditional materials and their possible role in architecture of the future.
Credit noe tanigawa

We’re wandering a gentle rise to a grassy field and —Sean Connelly’s piece, Thatch Assembly with Rocks (2060s).

“I love this piece.  I think it’s very dramatic.  When he said he was going to build a hale, this wasn’t what I had in mind at all!  He’s making a point about island based materials and the ahupua‘a system, so he’s got the river rocks here.  And Lynne Yamamoto up there, she’s got a piece that speaks to plantation days, which is so appropriate for around here. you can see little moments of that era still up Kuakini and Frog Lane, it’s just disappearing all around us.”

Lynne Yamamoto. Borrowed Time. Yamamoto's work often references the plantation experience in Hawai'i. This simple, but witty plantation porch manages to recall so much, and be so welcoming.
Credit noe tanigawa

She’s done it in shorthand, yet she really makes me feel that plantation thing.

Here I’m going to interpret, hey I guess that’s okay it’s art, we can do that so I’m going to say, that shorthand is on purpose.  The title, “Borrowed Time,” that everything’s fleeting, it’s not going to stay  forever.”

She’s picked out just some key references that you look at and go, yeah! 

“She’s got her slat that’s slightly broken, she’s got the paint faded, some of it’s unfinished, some is finished, little cement slab, and of course, the tin roof, right?”

Yamamoto welcomes visitors to sit on her little porch, and you’ll want to.  Sit quietly a moment and ----you fill in the blank.