In a story for the Washington Post, Blake Gopnik assessed how much time patrons of New York’s Museum of Modern Art spent looking at displayed works. His results were startling. The average time spent reading the educational text posted on the wall amounted to 50 seconds per piece, which far outstretched the only four seconds spent looking at the piece itself. Sadly, the maximum time spent on any piece was just eight seconds (fair time enough if you’re on a bucking bull — but we’re talking about a swanky gallery) — that is, if the piece was viewed at all. I remember reading some similar statistic years ago, and it’s entirely informed the way I’ve since viewed any showcase. I may be the crazy lady starting methodically in one corner, going painfully slow piece by piece, but even if I don’t make it all the way through the exhibit, at least I feel I got the most out of what I did see.
OK. That said, I’ll admit, I haven’t entirely gotten through the Schaefer International Gallery’s newest show, Ho’oulu: The Inspiration of Hula. There are four fine art portraits, three vignettes of hula-related artifacts from families with “uninterrupted genealogical lines of hula,” a looped video of archival interviews, and 70 black and white portrait-photographs of loea hula (hula resources). It may be overwhelming, but it’s worth it to spend proportionately extra time reading the accompanying text, as every portrait boasts insightful narrative from each subject; and collectively they create a fascinating dialogue among masters in an age of revival. Gems like this one — from John Keolamaka’ainanakalanuiokalani Lake — speak to elements of this ancient art that my mind has skipped across like a stone on still water, but (not being a hula person) have never been able to articulate, let alone with authority: “There is a tremendous clash today between old values and modern values of Hawaii. With the creativity of new styles and interpretations, the question today has become what is considered traditional hula? Today you have a lot of creative dances that exist for the sake of rhythm rather than the sake of language. Rhythm gives way to movement, movement gives way to theatrics, and theatrics give way to confusion.”
So, take your time. It may seem tedious — even for the cultural enthusiast — but it’s got so much to offer, and we’ve got until December 23 to take it all in (nonetheless I recommend you start now, if you haven’t already; the show opened Nov 10). A collaborative effort between the MACC and the Hawaii State Foundation of Culture and the Arts, the works in this exhibit have been borrowed from the Art in Public Places collection (and while public, are not very readily accessible, let alone in aggregate). To round out your experience, save the date for the gallery’s “Storytelling Festival: Family Hula Stories” event on Saturday, December 11 (11am-1pm, free). Photographer Shuzo Uemoto, who took most of the images on display, will be on hand to discuss his work, as will the featured hula families. Speaking of which, the Farden ‘ohana — who have made “a significant contribution to popular Hawaiian music and hula” — present a special show “Generations: The Farden Family in Hula & Music,” this Saturday (November 27) at the McCoy Studio Theater (7:30pm, $25). 808-242-7469; mauiarts.org
But wait! There’s more! Two shorts will screen at the McCoy Studio Theater this Sunday (November 28, 3pm, $10). The first, Stones, by Ty Sanga is rivetingly melancholy (I saw it at this year’s Hana Film Festival). And, it stars Maui boy Moses Goods III [who first rocked my world when I saw him perform — all by himself, mind you — all nine characters in The Legend of Kaulula’au, written and directed by Keali’iwahine Hokoana (who is a certifiable genius, in my book)]. The second, Keao, by the lovely Emily Spenser, follows the story of a young Hawaiian dancer as she prepares for work at a lu’au show — and the costume addition which ignites within her an epiphany about culture and identity. 808-242-7469; mauiarts.org
Honey, take your time…
Ho‘oulu: The Inspiration of Hula exhibition is presented by Maui Arts & Cultural Center in collaboration with the Art in Public Places Program of the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.
Top: Portrait of Edith Kanaka‘ole, chanting in the koa forest. By Franco Salmoiraghi.
Center (L-R) : Nina Boyd Maxwell, Emma Farden Sharpe, Leiana Long Woodside. By Shuzo Uemoto.
Below (Ho’oulu opening reception) : Long family members, Hokulani Holt, Kahili Long Cummings and Lu‘ukia Ruidas; Farden family members; Maxwell family members. By Jose Morales.
Looking to further immerse yourself? CLICK HERE to read a detailed article about the exhibit by Maui News staff writer Kekoa Enomoto.