Walking into the Schaefer International Gallery one recent afternoon, I was drawn to the artwork to my left. It consisted of large, wood block-printed panels of silk displaying dreamlike images by Jonathan Clark. There were more magical discoveries just beyond it–a basket of hand-painted porcelain egg shells by Marie Ritzman, an ephemeral painting of clouds, oil landscapes, sculpture and video.
It’s all part of the Hawaii National Parks 2016 Centennial Juried Exhibition, now on display at the Schaefer. Clark, a Maui native who is living in New York, won the “Best Installation” honor for his Ahinahina in Mist silk panels.
“Driving up the slopes of Haleakala, I never quite know if the clouds surrounding me will eventually part to reveal the summit’s otherworldly landscape,” says Clark. “And often, they don’t. But ‘ahinahina and cinder stones peek through the vast expanse of white–remnants of an expansive vista lying quietly beyond the mist. And it’s in those moments that the rest of the world falls away, lost in silence. I carved several woodblocks with images of ‘ahinahina and cinders, and then printed them onto raw silk using acid dyes. The carved image inherently loses clarity in the translation from woodblock to fabric, but that translation brings the work one step closer to the very environment that it evokes. Nature is aestheticized by its own ephemerality–bloom, wilt, hibernation, wakening are all echoed in our own lives.”
Jurors James Jenson, the curator of Contemporary Art at Honolulu Museum of Art in Oahu, and Kumu Hula Nalani Kanakaole of Hawaii Island also award “Best in Exhibition” to Maui artist Mary Ann Leigh for her Nene Threat Display Protects the Family entry. California-based artist Kathy Yoshihara won the “Best Three-Dimensional Work” for her entry We Cannot Bury the Past.
All the works at the exhibition are breath-taking. As I drew near to what I thought was a painting, I was blown away to find that it was actually a giant photograph of clouds, taken by Christopher Cole. The image is huge, 72 inches by 84, and is mounted in a thick, two-inch frame. As you stand before it, you get the feeling that you’re floating over the clouds, staring into a distant horizon filled with the gentle, warm hues of dawn. I had never seen a photo capture the essence of clouds and atmosphere so flawlessly.
“This work comprises a selection from an ongoing project titled ‘On Haleakala,’ taken from different vantage points in Haleakala National Park,” says Cole. “This digital chromogenic print, made from an eight-by-10 color negative, conveys a sense of the ever-changing mood and inimitable beauty of the Hawaii Pacific as seen from the slopes of Haleakala.”
The photo has already sold for $15,000. Throughout the exhibition, I was struck by the artistic interpretations of our National Parks. Each piece was wonderful, creative and inspiring, even sparking glee as I related their artwork back to the park I’d visited.
“I thought it was a good opportunity to make this our first national call to artists to enter their work for consideration by jury,” says gallery director Neida Bangerter. “We used an online submission service called Café (Callforentry.org). This enabled an artist who had visited our parks to submit work. The call went out in November 2015, which gave artists time to create new work. We had 400 entries that were juried through images submitted. There were 76 works selected, with 18 of those works from other states.”
The artists were asked to create a work that was inspired by a list of Hawaii, Maui, Molokai and Oahu National Parks. I was surprised to find that I’d visited all of them, and that there were none on Kauai. Bangerter said she wasn’t sure why Kauai doesn’t have a national park, but this show does include artists from Kauai.
“Schaefer International Gallery received an inquiry in 2012 by staff members at Haleakala National Park, bringing our attention to the Hawaii National Parks 2016 centennial, in conjunction with the National Parks centennial,” says Bangerter. “We felt that highlighting the importance of Hawaii’s National Parks, and offering a national call to artists who are inspired by these places, would be a wonderful focus as part of our 2016-2017 exhibits programming.”
Each of the National Parks included–Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, Haleakala National Park, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Honouliuli National Monument, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Pu`ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park and World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, has an information plaque.
There are also some special historic displays for Haleakala National Park. Just the fact that some travelled to Hana through Haleakala back in the day, when you went by foot or horseback because following the edge of the island was challenging, put me in my place.
Our National Parks are precious. They house the last of our native forests and, in turn, the last of our native birds. Those native birds and flora and fauna are expressed in a lot of the artwork. At first, when I observed Melissa Chimera’s oil on canvas–Inheritance, Haleakala–I thought it looked like a painted Mandala design from afar. Up close, I realized that the mandala design is actually comprised of Kiwikiu.
“My work contemplates the tipping point of human and environmental endangerment, extinction, globalization and our human role in these processes,” says Chimera.”This work depicts Haleakala’s three rarest plant and bird species: Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill), Nohoaau (Geranium arboreum) and ‘Oha wai (Clermontia Samuelii). The numbers of individuals painted represent the actual numbers remaining in the field: 261 Parrotbill (estimate only), 20 clermontia and two geraniums. The radial concentric design on blue refers to the house of the sun, home to the Park Service’s greatest number of rare species.”
Part of the exhibition is a symposium hosted by a panel of National Park employees, taking place this Sunday, Sept. 25 from 10am to 12pm at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center’s McCoy Theatre. Tickets for that are $10. There will also be a free Observe and Play Family day on Oct. 1 at 10am, with a guided walk through of the gallery that includes a chance to meet some of the artists and make a piece of art to take home.
“The symposium will feature Natalie B. Gates, Superintendent of Haleakala NP, Cindy Orlando, Superintendent of Hawaii Volcanoes NP, Bryan Harry, former Hawaii Volcanoes NP Superintendent and former Pacific Area Director and Matt Wordeman, President of Friends of Haleakala National Park,” says Bangerter. “The panelists will provide an overview of their parks’ shared history and answer questions about current park topics.”
This exhibit will hang through Nov. 6. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10am to 5pm, and before Castle Theatre shows and intermission.