This Friday, Mar. 10, the annual retrospective show at the Hui No`eau kicks off with an in-depth view of the art of Judy Bisgard. As a young girl she loved to saddle up and take off adventuring the mountainside when Maui was ruled by agriculture. That feeling of adventure and roaming fearlessly presents itself in her body of work that spans decades and many medias.
“We grew up horseback riding all over the ranch,” says Bisgard. “In those days there weren’t any gates. I would be in the pineapple fields. My dad worked for Maui Pine. We would ride horseback after school. He loved to ride. He would say, ‘Saddle up!’ and off we would go. It was a simpler time with no gate locks, mom and pop stores and a large farming and ranching community.”
Looking at her art, one of the first things you might notice is that Bisgard travels freely through genres and media. Her show features oil painting, plein air painting, wood cuts, encaustic, intaglio, collagraph, landscapes, landmarks, abstract and fiber art.
“I have been taking classes off and on for 30 years,” says Bisgard. “My baskets were the first things to go in shows. They were in the early Art Mauis. I haven’t kept track of the dates. I have been in and out of Art Maui a lot. Just lucky. You never know when you are going to get in but it’s always nice. I try to put in things that are a challenge to me. I don’t enter the same thing. So I’m always trying new media. Because that is the challenge: to get a new media in.”
Her retrospective shows part of her process, with the raw woodcuts or other print media plates hanging next to finished prints. She says she took her first printmaking class at the Hui.
“A lot of what I have done etching and printing, it all started at the Hui,” she says. “Darrell Orwig taught me my first etching class. When Paul Mullowney came a few years ago at the Hui, I was always there and watching. They had visiting artists from all over the world coming and doing amazing stuff. They would take a painter and put them doing a wood block. Or they would take a poet and a painter and have them do a set of intaglio. That was a learning experience, watching that kind of printing. The Hui has workshops constantly. It’s a constant learning process for me.”
Orwig, a celebrated Maui artist, Hui member and volunteer is looking forward to the show.
“Where to start?,” says Orwig. “In the military we called it ‘leadership by example.’ Judy’s work is competent, professional, competitive and almost fearless in all of its forms. These are just some of the elements that I have seen and experienced in Judy’s work. In spite of her talent, Judy still considers herself a student of the arts. Over the years, her works have been inspiring examples for others to learn from.”
He says to keep an eye out for her landscapes.
“Judy’s landscapes are the best examples of sure, complete paintings in every sense of the word,” says Orwig.”They consist of a warmth and engaging quality that truly define what paintings should be. It leaves me anticipating what comes next.”
The art moves the environment, flora and fauna, recognizable landmarks, grandchildren and furniture with an expert flow. Bisgard didn’t want to do a show where you create pieces for it–instead, she picked from her wealth of existing work.
“The intention in my work is to convey the richness of both the environment from my own visual experiences of growing up on Maui with its many contrasting views of open fields, mountains and unique buildings from a bygone era and the variety of the local flora,” says Bisgard. “My work tries to interweave this intent while conveying the uniqueness in both the color and texture of the local flora, a sense of the passage of time and the richness of color found on Maui.”
I met her at her country home a month ago, to watch her process and techniques. Her home had been transformed into a gallery of sorts with lots of pieces organized into groups. The printmaking stuff alone takes up several rooms.
Soon after arriving I’m drawn to a yellow, red and blue piece laying out on the bed. It’s more abstract than some of the other prints.
“Oh that?” says Judy when I ask about it. “I don’t know if I’m going to use this. This is a plate that I made. Not many people work this way but you can. It’s like making a plate, a collagraph plate. Etching you build in, but collagraph you build out. I used tape, masking tape–I mean, whatever. I would cover it in glue and stuff and set and clear it. Then I would print it. This is what happens when I print it. People don’t know this because they’ve never seen anything like this done. So I kind of want to show this. It would be fun to show. Things come out of it that you just wouldn’t expect.”
Then there was an encaustic that mixed in some printmaking. This is another one that got accolades as a juror’s choice. It’s a good example of her experiment with nature and art as she took the moa, a native Hawaiian fern, and ran it through a press giving an organic relief print.
“I don’t know what he [the juror] liked about it,” she says. “It’s a nice piece. It has negative and positive. What I did there was ran the moa right through a printing press and sort of took it off. Then I worked with Japanese papers to create something. It’s hard to get the right coat of white! Then I decided to run something on my printing press. This is ganpi. And I got a bit about the history of moa, which I usually don’t do. I usually don’t do [text] printing, but that was fun.”
We walk into the living room, which is filled with her oils, plein air and landscapes.
“I love the consistency of oil,” she says. “I love the richness of the color. Here I think a lot of these were stored. These are early plein air paintings. Here is a jacaranda. This is the same jacaranda from a different day. This is O`o farms. These are early, I did these years ago. Oil paintings of Ching store, Makawao town. They are all done on site. That makes it different. It’s really different than working in a studio, especially if you’re using a photograph. You’re painting in the wind, sun and rain.”
This weekend, I went to the Hui gallery to check the progress of the hanging. Both of these unique printmaking examples did end up making it into her show. And there’s an entire wall of her wonderful plein air works. Everything has been framed perfectly since I saw it last.
Clearly, Bisgard is ready for opening night.
But beyond her works, Bisgard has long impacted the art scene on Maui with her philanthropic efforts. A board member of the Maui Arts and Cultural Center (MACC), she worked on its Art in Architecture program, which influenced the beautiful art you see in and around the buildings at the MACC. She has also volunteered and served on the board at the Hui. And she’s been a commissioner for the State Foundation on Culture and Arts for two four-year terms.
“Judy has a boundless energy and is always available and willing to help out with community art projects, ranging from her work at the MACC to Art Maui, countless juried shows she’s participated in and her endless volunteer hours at Hui No`eau,” says Orwig. “She supports all of the Hui’s numerous visual arts programs. She can be found helping set up for classes, coordinating with staff, helping with displays, exhibits and community art events and serving on committees. From the beginning, Judy has been a constant and reliable resource. I don’t think the Hui would be the place it is without her.”
JUDY BISGARD: RETROSPECTIVE
Fri. Mar 10 – Sat. May 6
Maui artist and Hui angel Judy Bisgard will be featured as this year’s Retrospective Artist in honor of her contributions to Maui’s visual arts community and for her dedication and commitment to Hui No`eau. This retrospective exhibition showcases Bisgard’s experiences with a wide range of media, from plein air paintings, fiber, encaustic, pastels, intaglio and woodcuts. Reception starts at 5pm. Hui No`eau Visual Arts Center, (2841 Baldwin Ave., Makawao); 808-572-6560; Huinoeau.com