Suzanne Tswei

Local Color
Sunday, December 23, 2001


Keiko Kamata's screenprint is entitled "Pavlov's Dogs." Kamata says: "A common dog unaware of its repetitive common response, / Behavior conditioned in the common world. / Being common is to follow the pack. / To become uncommon is to become aware of the pack."

Realm of printmakers’ sense
proves far from common

Common sense. Taken for granted yet so elusive when you most need it. It's difficult enough to exercise common sense in everyday life, let alone employing it as a theme for an art exhibit.

That's why there was a lot of crumbling among the 15 printmakers who stuck to it as the subject of a group exhibition at The Contemporary Museum Cafe. The newly opened exhibit features the works of 15 printmakers, seven from Honolulu and eight from Kona, who created the prints to exchange within the group. It runs through May 19.

"There was a little grumbling. OK, there was grumbling all through while the artists worked on the prints for the last six months," said Donna Broder, who helped arranged the exhibit.

The idea came up while drinking coffee with master printmaker Hiroki Morinoue who rejected Broder's suggestions in favor of the more difficult "common sense" theme.

"He thought because it's more difficult, you can do more with it. It's more of a challenge," Broder recalled.

"Forgotten Beach Clothes" is a woodcut by Laura Smith, who says of this piece: "That summer my Aunt Bee forgot everything but her swimsuit when she went to the beach on vacation."

There was less grumbling among the Kona artists who turned art making into social events. Every time they gathered to discuss ideas and printmaking techniques, they also brought their favorites homemade dishes to share.

"We tried that, too, but we didn't get very far," said Laura Smith, describing how the Honolulu artists tried to help each other.

Looking at the exhibit, it's impossible to see the suffering behind the works. The prints, from simple to elaborate, are elegant and finished works on paper -- although if you aren't aware of the theme, you'd be hard pressed to see "common sense" in the pieces.

And the mastermind who wanted a challenge, Morinoue, got off the hook. He dropped out of the show to make room for another artist, and instead printed handsome folders to house the prints for each artist.

Common Sense

A Portfolio Exchange Between Printmakers in Honolulu and Kona
Place: The Contemporary Museum Café, 2411 Makiki Heights Drive
Time: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays, and noon to 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through May 19
Admission: Free
Call: 526-1322

The folders resemble large white envelopes with postage marks and stamps and the words "common sense." Each folder is created with dry-point and woodblock techniques. It isn't officially a print for the show but one is included in the exhibit.

"Hiroki's folder is a real bonus for us -- an original piece of art. That was unexpected and it's a beautiful way for us to keep the prints," Smith said.

After all the hard work, the exhibit results in nice Christmas gifts for the participating printmakers who made limited editions of their works. The artists' exchange means that each receives a complete set of the prints in the exhibit. A few prints are also made available for sale to institutions or individual collectors.

HanSolo's "Stem Cell Research" is a lithograph. "Common sense suggests that the potential benefits from stem cell research outweigh the surrounding political, moral and ethical concerns," the artist says.

The Kona artists, working out of the Holualoa Foundation for Arts and Culture, are Lynn Capell, Denis Keogh, Irene Laudan, Andrea Pro, Jeera Rattanangkoon, Susanne St. John, Tomas Villa and Setsuko Watanabe. Participants from Honolulu are Donna Broder, Duncan Dempster, HanSolo, Keiko Kamata, Deb Nehmad, Mari Sakamoto and Laura Smith.

Following the Honolulu exhibit, the prints will be shown on the Big Island at the Holualoa foundation's new home, popularly known as "The Donkey Mill," a defunct coffee mill in Kona.

The Holualoa foundation currently works out of the Holualoa Community Center, where the artists maintain a studio for printmaking and other functions. The new facility, with 2,000 square foot under roof and 1.5 acres of land, will provide enough room for gallery, office, classroom and performance space. It is expected to open in March or April.

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Suzanne Tswei's art column runs Sundays in Today.
You can write her at the Star-Bulletin,
500 Ala Moana, Suite 7-210, Honolulu, HI, 96813
or email

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