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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, November 25, 1999

Courtesy of Debra Drexler
Painter Debra Drexler's drawings use a pleasing palette of
pastels and charcoal in contrast to the not-so-pretty message
that women have yet a long way to go in society's eye.

‘Skin’ examines complex
beauty of women

By Suzanne Tswei


Woman: domestic goddess in a one-size-fits all dress made of hog gut.
Woman: nameless object of desire reduced to body parts .
Woman: Asian mail-order bride displayed in an insect collection.
Woman: mother, daughter, ballerina, middle class bourgeois, prostitute, maid, songbird.


It's one thing to comment on the mistreatment of women. It's another to be able to do it with style, beauty, ingenuity and wit. Six women artists have made that job seem easy with an exhibit called "Skin" at Salon5 on Nuuanu Street.

The subject matter is lofty and serious. The advance announcement describes it as a "multi-media exhibit that looks at the way women are represented in culture and art with reference to gender, social class, race and ethnicity."

With a statement such as that, it's natural to expect a show of preachy, political and self-important pronouncements.

But it's not like that. The six artists, four who teach at the University of Hawai'i and two mainland artists formerly associated with the university, have put on a thought-provoking, metaphor-filled show, without resorting to scream-in-your-face kind of anger.


Bullet What: "Skin," a show by Maile Andrade, Gaye Chan, Debra Drexler, Jee Un Kim, Pat Hickman and Tania Yowson
Bullet Where: Salon5, 1150-A Nuuanu Ave.
Bullet When: Noon to 8 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays through Dec. 31; closed today and Christmas Day
Bullet Admission: Free
Bullet Call: 550-2855

Also on the theme of woman, The Contemporary Museum is exhibiting "Women in Print," recent prints by women artists collected by Bank of America.

Women's issues are not the theme of this exhibit; rather it showcases work by 20 contemporary women artists exploring a wide range of styles and images.


Bullet What: "Women in Print," recent prints by women artists from BankAmerica Corporation Art Collection
Bullet Where: The Contemporary Musum, 2411 Makiki Heights Drive
Bullet When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday through Jan. 16. Closed today, Christmas and New Year's days
Bullet Cost: $5, $3 for senior and students $3, free to member and children under 12, free on third Thursday of each month
Bullet Call: 526-1322

Fiber artist Pat Hickman sums it all up in one dress, a metaphor for women and her place in the home. Not a dress a real woman would be able to wear, but a one-size-fits-all dress made of sausage casings that would be perfect for a life-size paper doll.

"The dress represents what women were expected to do in the '50s. Get dinner ready, keep the house clean, get yourself ready for your man when he comes home and things like that," says Hickman, who grew up in that era.

"I like to think we have moved beyond that. But I don't think so. Things have gotten better, but we still have some ways to go."

That sentiment is repeated throughout the show. Painter Debra Drexler does it with pastel and charcoal drawings that are pleasing to the eye while commenting on a subject not so pretty.

In a black-and white-drawing titled "Cats and Dogs," Drexler uses the animals to show that society sees two types of women. "It's easy to tell the good women from the bad women," she wrote on the drawing.

"The good women were clothed; the bad women were nude. The good women had dogs; the bad women had cats. Both good and bad women were for sale. The good women just cost more."

Women as commodity is a theme that appears in work by Tania Yowson and Gaye Chan. Yowson's mother came to America from the Philippines as a mail order bride, and the artist explores the idea through pictures of headless women in bikinis and dead bugs. The women and bugs are pierced with pins and display on a wall, as an insect collection.

"I wonder who these women are," says Chan, who also investigates women's status as objects of desire.

Brad Goda photo
"One size fits all" by fiber artist Pat Hickman is made
of sausage casings. It's one of the works
on view at Salon5 Gallery.

"They are nameless. We see them for their body parts. I want to know who are these women who will do this -- reduced to just body parts."

Chan used images of nude women from playing cards or downloaded from a web site for her mix-media collages on pages torn from an old book.

In another piece, Chan used old passport photos and a geological survey, all rescued from dumpsters, to compose a collage commenting on the history of Hawaii.

For artists Maile Andrade and Jee Un Kim, the things that women use are the subjects.

Andrade uses five cigar boxes to house items of makeup, sponges, miniature pots and dishes, and a doily shaped as a big-busted woman, while Kim packs a stainless lunchbox with a pair of pantyhose, steel wool and rows of false eyelashes to illustrate the point that women are boxed in by simple and conventional things.

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