The Hawai'i State Art Museum, styled after the Davanzatti Palace in Florence, Italy, is scheduled to open on Nov. 3.

A home for
Hawaii’s art

Planned activities
Art conference to set agenda for next 30 years

By Nadine Kam

The 700 index cards couldn't lie on the floor of Tom Klobe's lanai forever. "I have to be able to live at home, so I have to follow certain rules," said the University of Hawaii art professor and director of the UH Art Gallery.

Maybe house rules about picking up after oneself don't really apply when the pieces on the ground feature images of 700 of the most valuable pieces of art collected by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

"Usually, when you see a survey of art, you see pieces that could have been done anywhere, but looking at the cards laid out on the lanai floor presented what I felt was an identity different from any other place in the world," Klobe said.

Among the works included in the inaugural display are Sidney Yee's "Chinese Ghosts, Chinese Money," (1996).

It was up to him to shuffle the images and organize them into themes that would tidily encapsulate the story of Hawaii and its people. The result is "Enriched by Diversity -- The Art of Hawai'i," an exhibit of about 360 works that will greet visitors when the Hawai'i State Art Museum (HiSAM for short) opens Nov. 3.

Until recently, the state's collection of artwork -- numbering more than 5,000 pieces accumulated over 30 years -- could have been described as nomadic, with individual pieces given temporary lodging within state buildings and public spaces in exchange for providing a bit of entertainment, a spot of color for building inhabitants.

The art might still be homeless today, if not for an economic dip that caused an $80.5 million building -- owned in succession by the Armed Services YMCA, Hemmeter Investment Co., and BIGI Corp. of Japan -- to became available for $20 million.

The building at 250 Hotel St. had been targeted as early as 1967 by state planners as the ideal site for such a museum, and the sale to the state was finally completed in December 2000.

NOW THE ARTWORK itself is bidding "E Komo Mai" in inviting the public to its new home. "E Komo Mai" is the title of a piece by George Kahumoku that is prominently displayed in a segment of the show themed "Our Traditions and Our Values." It's a mixed-media construction of a door stoop covered with the slippers and shoes shed upon entering any island home.

The foundation has been playful in advertising the opening of the gallery, with ads featuring a welcome mat reading "E komo mai," offering an invitation to "Come. Can wear slippah!"

"We don't want it to be elitist or scary," said Lisa A. Yoshihara, curator for the state foundation's Art in Public Places Program. She's been conducting preview tours for travel industry and business professionals and says, "I'm getting a big kick of watching people react. I see their faces light up and I know the art is doing its work.

"You see people duck around a corner and stare at a particular piece, something that speaks to them."

It might be the strong graphic frescoes by Juliette May Fraser and Jean Charlot, completed in Hawaii of the 1950s, when mainland artists were discovering this visual paradise for the first time with the advent of air travel. It might be in the striking black-and-white portraits of Hawaiian people by Franco Salmoiraghi and Francis Haar. Or it may be Doug Young's watercolor paintings of rows of jars filled with crack seed or the old Aloha Motors site at Kalakaua Avenue and Kapiolani Avenue. The latter had a few early visitors reminiscing about finding their first car there.

THROUGH SIX THEMES, the inaugural exhibition captures a visual history of Hawaii from the formation of the land through roiling, vibrant depictions of lava flows, to the arrival of the first inhabitants, the legends they told, the influence of Asian immigration, periods of social activism and a reawakening of the Hawaiian spirit, and contemporary expressions that attempt to convey globally what it means to come from or experience this place.

John Young's "Waimea Canyon" (1991) captures the power of Kauai's landscape in a segment of HiSAM's inaugural show devoted to works "Inspired by the Land and Sea."

Separate from other bodies of land and surrounded by water, Hawaii's isolation led artists to express the feeling of distance through works highly independent, original, reflective and self-reverential. At the same time, continuous waves of immigrants introduced pieces of their own rich cultures to add to the already glistening palette.

The artists' powerful language will resonate with anyone who grew up here, as well as to transplants who grew to love a culture so unique, and, as any local would acknowledge, more than just a little weird.

In a place where everyone lives in relatively close quarters, Klobe said, "I think we're a little more tolerant than most places. Anyone can sense our uniqueness because of the way so many people have come here from other places; they had to communicate in some way, so invented their own language.

"I'm excited that these pieces are being brought together. I think when people see this they'll have a greater view of the significance of art and the messages art can convey, that it can build a sense of pride.

"It's really celebrating who we are, our specialness. I think it comes through."

Duane Preble, University of Hawaii at Manoa emeritus professor of art, who was on the exhibition's selection committee, said, "I hope this exhibition brings home the message that art is something you can do. It's not only about long-dead European and Asian males, and not only about so-called famous artists like Michelangelo. It's about us and what we have to say."

Others on the selection committee were Yoshihara, Klobe, Graphic House owner and president Momi Cazimero, Honolulu Academy of Arts director George Ellis, The Contemporary Museum associate director and chief curator James Jensen, and Fine Arts Associates owner Greg Northrop.

At a time when state budgets were being cut, there were complaints that another museum in Hawaii is unneccesary and Jensen was among those who defended its creation.

"I'm not aware of many places where you can go and see an exhibition of contemporary work done in that place.

Isami Doi led the way for a generation of Japanese-American artists who were educated on the mainland and came back with Western techniques they combined with an Asian aesthetic to create a distinctive voice. Shown is Doi's "Cosmic Alchemy" (1962).

"The Academy of Arts and Contemporary Museum have works by artists of Hawaii but nothing as extensive as the collection the the State Foundation. It's a wonderful complement to the Honolulu Academy of Arts and The Contemporary Museum."

IN ASSEMBLING the state's collection, Yoshihara said committee members have always looked for originality, excellence in technique and the artist's ability to push themselves into new directions. She said it has been breathtaking to witness entire careers expressed through the collections.

"We have 17 paintings by Reuben Tam that he did between 1943 and 1991. We were looking at the slides and realized that in many cases we were looking at people's lives. It starts hitting you, the wealth that's there, a visual history.

"I've been in the gallery late at night, and as much as I think I know the art, seeing them in a new venue makes me see them in a new way. They tell me different stories," Yoshihara said.

The pieces talk to each other as well. In the segment themed "Discovering Our Asian Roots," Isami Doi's "Cosmic Alchemy" is surrounded by works by Tadashi Sato, Toshiko Takaezu, Satoru Abe and Harry Tsuchidana, a younger generation of artists who followed in the footsteps of Doi, regarded as the spiritual father of Japanese-American artists from Hawaii.

In another juxtaposition, politically charged photographs by Mark Hamasaki are surrounded by those of his protégé Anne K. Landgraf. They ultimately merge their skills in telling the story of H-3 under the name Piliamo'o.

Kauai artist Wayne Miyata's "Forms from 'The Four Sleepers' by Mokuan Reien" (1998).

"There's outstanding work from people who are known and not known to the public, work by the 'old masters' of Hawaii and people who have not been prolific but who have done outstanding work," Preble said. "People of all ages and ethnic backgrounds are really going to enjoy the exhibition."

Key to that enjoyment is the ability to relax and let the art speak for itself.

"There are so many people in Hawaii today who didn't have Art 101 or any art education -- they went to school when art wasn't happening due to cutbacks -- who feel uninvolved and feel intimidated by going to the art academy or other museums," Preble said. "They think they have to know something in advance to enjoy art, and that's far from the truth," he said. "You watch kids who are 4 or 5 and they don't have any hang-ups. They don't care if they don't know the media or the artist. They just respond.

"We all enjoy music and eat food without necessarily knowing how to play an instrument or how to cook, or what's in a dish. There are a lot of things we enjoy in life that we don't understand. Understanding is nice, but it's not necessary to enjoyment."

As important as the new museum's dialog with locals is what it broadcasts globally, Preble said. "Its impact will be broad and significant. I don't think people here or outside the state know how many great artists we have. Hawaii isn't taken seriously as a cultural center."

The image isn't helped by galleries touting tourist art, he said. Just as years ago Hawaii cuisine was represented by mahi and pineapple dishes served in Waikiki restaurants, Hawaii's art scene has also suffered from an image problem, and Preble looks forward to the museum opening as an opportunity to set the record straight.

"A lot of art presented in Waikiki and tourist areas is really mediocre art that misrepresents us. Waikiki was once the print-fraud capitol of the world," Preble said.

"There's nothing wrong with a black velvet painting of Diamond Head under the moonlight if it does contribute to your experience of Hawaii after getting off a plane, but for those of us who understand the richness of the culture, it's an insult.

"The state's collection is anything but that. It has Hawaiiana in it, but Hawaiiana that hasn't been souped up for the tourist market."

Doug Young's "Pickled Mango" (2000).

Celebrate Culture and the Arts Festival

Grand opening of the Hawaii State Art Museum and its inaugural exhibition, "Enriched by Diversity: The Art of Hawaii":

Featuring: Music, dance, food booths, art demonstrations and hands-on art activities for the whole family
Where: 250 S. Hotel St.
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 3
Admission: Free, but a ticket is required

Call: 586-0900

Michael Harada's "Jonny Piggy" (1991) is one of the works that will be on view when the Hawai'i State Art Museum opens its doors Nov. 3 with the inaugural exhibition, "Enriched by Diversity -- The Art of Hawaii."

Here’s the schedule
for activities planned
for museum’s opening day

THE public ceremony for the Hawai'i State Art Museum will take place at 9 a.m. Nov. 3 with a formal blessing on the steps of the new museum.

After that, the doors to the museum will open for a daylong celebration of the arts with demonstrations, hands-on art activities, dance and music performances on two stages, food booths and free admission to a dozen downtown cultural and historic attractions.

Free E Noa Trolleys will shuttle every 15 minutes around the Capitol District, and between the museum and the Honolulu Academy of Arts from 8:30 a.m.

Admission to the museum will be by timed ticket, with hourly self-guided tours beginning at 9:30 a.m. Pick up tickets while supplies last at Borders Books Music Cafe, Native Books Kapalama, Na Mea Hawai'i Aoi Store, and Native Books & Beautiful Things.

The following activities will take place on opening day. Look for updates in Friday's Weekend section:

Art activities

Glass blowing demonstrations: Rick Mills and University of Hawaii students

Raku demonstrations: Shige Miyamoto and UH ceramics students

Solar print hands-on demonstration: Shuzo Uemoto, Gaye Chan, David Ulrich

Watercolor demonstrations: John Wisnosky and Shige Yamada, Charles Higa and Harry Tsuchidana

Honolulu Printmakers: Demonstration and rubber-stamping on bags

Ceramic wheel and hand-building demonstrations: Yukio Ozaki, Vicky Chock, Esther Shimazu, Sally Fletcher-Murchison and David Kuraoka

Weaving hands-on and demonstration: Pam Barton, Gail Toma, Judy Bisgard, Jay Wilson and Claudia Johnson

Drawing demonstration: Alan Leitner, Ron Kowalke, Sally French

Sculpture rubbings: John Koga, Koi Ozu, Sean Browne, Satoru Abe and Fred Roster

Mix-media collage hands-on activity: Duane Preble, Ira Ono, Carol Yotsuda, Marcia Morse, A. Kimberlin Blackburn


Hawaii Opera Theatre

Nova Arts (Iona Contemporary Dance Theatre)

Mini tours: With historian and storyteller Glen Grant

Galliard Strong Quartet

Honolulu Brass Quintet

Kenny Endo

Partners in Time with folk dancers


Kumu hula Pulani Kanaka'ole Kanahele and Nalani Kanaka'ole Zane and Halau O Kekuhi

Miyashiro Sohokai

Na 'Oiwi

Peter Medeiros and Ozzie Kotani


Bento lunches: 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Cafe Laniakea; shave ice offered until 3 p.m.

Activities: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; face painting for kids, interactive art booth, paint-a-tile activity, ceramic sale, facility tours. A small fee may apply to some activities.

Family Swim Time: 2 to 4 p.m. in the courtyard pool

Juliette May Fraser's fresco on canec, "Kana Wrestling the Turtle" (1954).


The following museums and art galleries will be open for free tours to coincide with the grand opening:

Hawaii Craftsmen and the ARTS at Marks Garage: 1159 Nuuanu Ave., painting demonstration.

Hawaii Theatre: Free tours at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m., with 2 p.m. contemporary dance performance by Evidence Dance Company.

Honolulu Academy of Arts: 900 S. Beretania St., catch final two weeks of "Sacred Treasures of Mount Koya" exhibition.

Honolulu Police Department's Law Enforcement Museum: Self-guided tours 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., also, curator-led tours.

Iolani Palace: Basement galleries and barracks open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

King Kamehameha V -- Judiciary History Center: Self-guided tours or docent-led tours, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Mission Houses Museum: Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with free tours of the 1821 Frame House and a printing demonstration on an antique press.

St. Andrews Cathedral: Free tour at 11:30 a.m. plus all-day meditation walks through the Labyrinth.

State Capitol: Tours include the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Docent-led tours.

Washington Place: Open house and tours, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Contemporary Art Museum at First Hawaiian Bank: 999 Bishop St., artist talks and docent tours.

State Foundation on Culture and the Arts

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