Drawing from life
Vince Hazen creates with the ephemera of everyday life
A handful of dog hair.
A pinch of moth dust.
A sprinkling of bird excrement.
Opening reception 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
On view: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays Nov. 5 through Nov. 19
Place: Satoru Abe Gallery, 888 N. King St.
Looks like the recipe for a Halloween witch's brew. But it's not. It's art from the mind and hands of Vince Hazen, who left a tenured teaching position at Chadron State University in Nebraska for a change of scenery and a whole new set of media in Hawaii. There's no shortage of natural materials in his yard in Kaimuki.
I called at an inopportune time, interrupting one of his works in progress. Time is of the essence, I learned, when you're drawing with slugs.
"It's sort of difficult to get them to go where I want, to see their trails," Hazen said. "I have to rotate the canvas. Sometimes I put them in the sun to make them go faster. Right now I'm trying to draw a slug with a slug, but you can push them only so much. They get sluggish after a while."
With luck and good coaxing, Hazen will have a few slug works to show at "Drawn Together," an exhibition opening Saturday at the Satoru Abe Gallery, also featuring the works of Maui artist Ron Smith; Contemporary Museum staffers John Koga, Jason Teraoka and Sanit Khewhok; and a roster of new artists. The exhibition promises to provide a lively dialogue by artists drawn together by the need to create and exchange ideas.
Artist Vince Hazen used real bee pollen to adorn the pollen sacs in "Pollen."
One of Hazen's conceptual works almost certain to be in the show is "Venus of Dog Ticks," a screen-printed image of the Paleolithic Venus of Willendorf fertility figurine, in which each of the half-tone dots comprising the image is covered with a same-size tick.
"Each one of those ticks came off my dogs in Nebraska," Hazen said. "There were so many ticks. After one hike, I'd find 30 to 40. It was time-consuming picking them off, but I take things like that, a chore, a nuisance, and transform -- I like to use the word 'transfigure' because of the spiritual connotations -- them into art, as a pleasurable way to approach living.
"It's changed the way I perceive the world. I find more meaning in the everyday things. I'm never bored."
His yellow Lab also provided him with material for his "Dog Hair Pictures," and his artist's statement on the series reads, in part, "I was very pleased with the divine math hidden in the coat of my dog." This enabled him to create, in "Dog-hair Diptych," a nautilus-shaped spiral of ascending hair lengths.
His own beard stubble went into the beard of a self-portrait. And when his home was invaded by noctuid moths, he collected a gallon of carcasses with a shop vacuum, reducing them to a few grams of fluffy iridescent powder that he used to create "Dust," a screen-printed image of a moth flocked with moth dust.
He used the same technique to create a portrait of his great-aunt out of her ashes.
"It doesn't look macabre at all. It looks like a beautiful portrait, and looks ghostlike with the ash."
"Dust" is made of moth sediment.
A CAREER AS an artist is not what one might expect from someone who grew up as an outdoorsman, hunting and fishing in Casper, Wyo., where his home was full of taxidermy trophies.
As a child he was unperturbed by the sight of dead animals, and requested and received fetal pigs, frogs and other specimens commercially prepared for dissection by biology students -- although, when informed that slugs can cause encephalitis, he said, "I think I'd better wash my hands now," before acknowledging, "Sometimes you have to take risks to make art."
He eventually earned his undergraduate degree in biology, but was blindsided by a trip to Paris that opened his eyes to modern art.
"I was familiar with the art of Wyoming, which is about the Western landscape and cowboy art. I always thought I would do something with biology, but I started adding more art classes and pretty soon I was in graduate school in art, not science."
New artist Corinne Kamiya's sculpture "2 Birds."
Hazen was particularly inspired by the Dadaist, anti-art assemblages of Marcel Duchamp and an alternative materials workshop taught by Philip Shaw.
With a natural interest in the outdoors, he was intrigued by the idea of extracting colors from plants, minerals and insects, as done by artists before commercial paints became available.
He became disenchanted when he saw no appreciable difference in color between his natural paints and commercial acrylic paint. This led him to experiment with nontraditional materials, concluding that "natural materials can inherently carry more symbolic or metaphorical power than traditional art materials."
Many of his works start with the screen print, because he's interested in finding ways to create something original out of a process that allows images to be reproduced millions of times. Very few people would have the patience to mine a dog's ticks to reproduce a "Venus."
"Moving from Nebraska to Hawaii, I'm full of new ideas and projects. I'm intrigued by discarded fabric. I'm working on some projects using Kaimuki dust. I'm going on walks to catch cockroaches. I love it here. I can't wait to see where living in Hawaii will take me."
A detail of Mat Kubo's "Rhythm #2."
Sanit Khewhok returns to oils with "Growing."