Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, November 6, 1998

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
A lamp by Mark Chai, at the Queen
Emma Gallery.

ART:It’s a turn on

Artists forage for these bright ideas

By Burl Burlingame


ONE of the headaches of any art show is arranging the lighting, but in the case of the new show at Queen's Medical Center Lobby, the lighting IS the show.

"Light Work, Sculptural Light," running through Nov. 29 at the hospital, features the illuminated creations of Robert Miller, Cynthia Tesoro and Mark Chai. The works are created of recycled materials, and can add a distinctive, one-of-a-kind accent to the home or work space.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Kandon Kamae gets a better
look at 'Pet Lamp' by Chai.

Tesoro cites recycled materials as "old Hawaii" metamorphosing into a "new Hawaii," and sees light not just as illumination, but as a search for understanding. Big Island artist Miller uses recycled glass cullet and "road-kill wood, copper, exotic lighting, transformers and found objects," assembled by "welding, polishing, sanding, melting, fusing, grinding, cutting and blowing" into glowing objets d'art.

Chai was "actually on the look out for a light and couldn't find one I liked, so I decided to make my own. I also had a design-class project to create a piece of furniture that was also a sculpture. I wanted it to interact with the viewer. What better way than to turn something on?"

Light, for Chai, is magical. The way we perceive the visual world, after all, is by direct and reflected light. "The crux is creating a piece that establishes a mood for the viewer," said Chai. "Light has its own aura. You know the times, like around a campfire, when the embers seem to have a personality? Try to recapture that for a room!"

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Lamps by Mark Chai, at the Queen
Emma Gallery.

He uses materials that transmit light directly, or even work by shielding light, throwing shadows on the wall. "You look for materials that transmit light, and they all have different properties. I use a lot of recycled materials, because raw materials like wood and metal can be very expensive."

His "pet lamp" is actually a ground-down chunk of a street lamp. "Some body had knocked down a lamp pole, and the light housing was knocked off and cracked. After passing it discarded for several days, I thought hmmm, looks like a turtle. So after liberating it, and grinding down the metal, it's a creature."

Other found materials that proved surprisingly warm were discarded cafeteria trays from the hospital. "They had a surplus sale, and these trays had, like a raffia pattern woven in the plastic. Looks beautiful when cut and illuminated."

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Lamps by Mark Chai, at the Queen
Emma Gallery.

Although Chai's works go for $120 to $180, he said many people can create their own works. He suggests using candelabra bulbs, which lend a sculptural quality to the light they put out.

"Halogen bulbs are VERY expensive, and they get really hot -- you don't want to put anything near them that can melt or catch fire," said Chai.

Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon weekends. Call 547-4397.

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