POSTED: Monday, March 16, 2009

The scale of the University of Hawaii-Manoa's signature “;10th International Shoebox Sculpture Exhibition”; is at once deceptive and daunting. The sculptures are miniature—shoe-box size—physically, yet they embody boundless creative ideas and elicit the gamut of responses.





        » On exhibit: Through April 9

» Place: University of Hawaii-Manoa Art Gallery


» Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays (closed March 26 for Kuhio Day)


» Tours: 2 to 3 p.m. Sundays


» Call: 956-6888




An adorable plastic elephant dressed in a crocheted sweater balances on striped balls on one side of the room, while a glass-encased block of human hair sits on the other. Whimsy over the elephant is a distant experience from the gruesome fascination the hair block elicits. The range of experiences available from the tiny works is breathtaking, making one quickly realize that the show is, in fact, a powerhouse.

It's easy to get lost in the individual pieces, but a look up into the gallery will reveal the vast size of the exhibit itself: 141 works by artists from 31 states and 16 countries. Artists hail from Australia, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Norway, the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and coast to coast of the United States.

“;This represents the only continual exhibit that goes offshore,”; says Lisa Yoshihara, director of the University of Hawaii Art Gallery, where the triennial show originated in 1982.

UH professors Mamoru Sato and Fred Roster came up with the shoe box concept after pondering how to expose Hawaii to international sculpture. Because of the often large-scale nature of sculpture, bringing in works from across the ocean is problematic. “;Shoebox”; eliminated those challenges, and with the assistance of professor emeritus Tom Klobe, former UH Art Gallery director, the exhibit grew in stature internationally.

The exhibit will travel to Hilo, across the U.S., Korea and other locations.

The process of putting together this 10th exhibit spanned more than a year and entailed the efforts not only of Yoshihara's staff, but those of students as well. “;The great part of anything that happens here is that it involves students,”; Yoshihara says.

UH's gallery allows students to supplement their education of making art with learning firsthand what it takes to put together a show—everything from administrative duties to designing show catalogs and gallery design.

The show itself is half juried and half invitational. Sato, Roster, glass professor Rick Mills and ceramics professor Suzanne Wolfe served as jurors. Yoshihara relied on her colleagues' recommendations for some leads for unknown talent, and she herself searched constantly, even while on vacation.

“;I went to Europe over the summer, and I visited galleries and followed up with those artists with strong work,”; she says.

In the end, out of 140 artists invited to participate, 78 replied, and their work represents every imaginable medium. Top international sculptors, including Ohio's Dorothy Gill Barnes, France's Bernard Calet, New York's Wenda Gu, Japan's Masafumi Maita and acclaimed Hawaii artists Satoru Abe, Esther Shimazu, Lori Uyehara and John Koga, comprise the lineup.

“;For me it's rewarding to see the diversity,”; Yoshihara says.

Roster readily agrees.

“;It's a labor-intesive exhibit but it's amazing once again,”; he says. “;It's an insightful glimpse into what artists are thinking in different parts of the world.

“;And it IS the work. We're not seeing it online. It's tangible. It's right from the artists' hands into our lives.”;