Storybook ending


POSTED: Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The charm of May Izumi is that she lacks pretension. Talking to her is like chatting with your favorite neighbor - she's down-to-earth, funny, someone you'd like to know better.




'Once the Tale is Over'

        Works by May Izumi

» On exhibit: Through May 1


» Place: The Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center, 999 Bishop St.


» Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and until 6 p.m. Fridays


» Call: 526-0232 or visit tcmhi.org


» Also: May Izumi gives an “;Art Lunch”; lecture on her work, noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 26, Hawaii State Art Museum. She will also give an artist's talk at 7:30 p.m. March 6 at First Hawaiian Center during First Friday.




'Ever After Tales'

        Two-woman show with May Izumi and Lori Uyehara

» On exhibit: Through March 8


» Place: Cedar Street Galleries, 817A Cedar St.


» Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays and until 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays


» Call: 589-1580 or visit cedarstreetgalleries.com




The thing is, Izumi could easily behave otherwise. She's an acclaimed fine artist locally and internationally, which means her works are shown - and purchased - by museums and serious art collectors. In a short decade, she's achieved what is agonizingly elusive for most lifelong artists: both critical regard and commercial viability.

But Izumi's self-deprecating humor reflects an unwavering humility. “;I still feel like any minute someone will come and say, 'You can take your stuff and leave now. We've changed our mind.' “;

Such dark musings are unlikely to come to pass. Izumi currently has exhibits in two galleries: “;Once the Tale is Over”; at The Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center and “;Ever After Tales,”; at Cedar Street Galleries.

Izumi's work is inspired by fairy tales and her ponderings about what happens beyond the “;happily ever after.”;

“;I get sidetracked thinking about what happens to the villains of these stories. Does Cinderella's stepmother keep being a jerk and watch her life continue to go down the tubes?”;

Her interest in fiction actually reflects a desire to explore real human experience. “; 'Cinderella' happens over and over again to real people,”; she says.

Inger Tully, curator of the First Hawaiian Center space, says Izumi's work is interesting because “;it's all about people who've gone through hardship in life coming out the other side.

“;Each piece is a wonderful substory.”;

Local girl Izumi was an unlikely candidate for an art career. After graduating from Kalani High School, her “;proper Japanese-American upbringing”; led to a “;practical marketing degree”; from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and an MBA from the University of Hawaii. Today, she has a day job at UH-Manoa, editing academic articles by science faculty.

Her artistic soul surfaced after her dying father confided that he regretted taking a practical path of study in college. The confession inspired in Izumi a determination to step beyond the practical: “;I came out of grad school and wanted to try something outrageous before I was wearing a hair net.”;

After taking ceramics classes, Izumi got her break six years ago at the now-defunct bibelot gallery in Kaimuki. Her star has been rising since.

Izumi's sculptures are air-dried rather than fired in a kiln. “;I actually have a little kiln at home, but my mother has a cow every time I fire it up. She says I'm going to burn the house down,”; Izumi deadpans.

She says serious artist types deem the craft clay she uses “;not for real artists,”; and she was embarrassed at first to use it. “;Then one of my friends said, 'A real artist can make art out of straws.' “;

Confidence intact, Izumi now begins her pieces with a wire skeleton “;stuffed with junk mail,”; then covered with a layer of foil and clay about a quarter-inch thick. The final touch is the signature stitching that embellishes each piece.

“;It's actually more like stapling,”; she says. “;I cut the wire while I'm watching TV. Everyone helps. I get my boyfriend to do it and my girlfriends, too. Then I poke holes to stick the staples in. It's time-consuming, but I like the way it looks.”;

Izumi says the end products are intended for everyone.

“;I want to give people enough to look at just to enjoy. Then I add more in case they want to have more. Sometimes it strikes a chord in them. ... Then I feel glad because I feel like we've communicated.”;