Weavers plait 3 Rs into pieces


POSTED: Tuesday, May 05, 2009

As if the economic crash isn't enough to burden us psychically, the swine flu now rages on the world stage to worry us about our very lives. The drama of recent crises can, and does, eclipse other events—many of them positive—being played out in our back yard.

Take the current trend of environmental accountability. It's become standard for everyone from big industry to grass-roots nonprofits, schools and clubs to households, to take some level of responsibility. What office or family potluck doesn't have a designated bin for paper or soda cans?

The microcosm of the local art world reflects this trend as well as any other group. Young artists in particular seem to have sustainability on their minds. Maikai Tubbs and Otto, for instance, are currently exhibiting work at town restaurant that explores the theme. (See

Another established local arts group chimes in this week. Hawaii Handweavers Hui's 27th Biennial Exhibition centers on “;The 3Rs—Recycle, Reuse, Reduce.”; In fact, the hui, now in its 56th year, recruited dedicated recycler Selina Tarantino to jury the show. Tarantino is co-founder of Re-use Hawaii, a nonprofit dedicated to the recycling of building material. The biennial required artists to employ reused material and hand-weaving in their pieces.

THE SHOW wows on various levels: Works not only include serious fine art, by the likes of such heavyweights as Mary Babcock, Reiko Brandon and Lori Uyehara, they showcase impressive examples of creativity and skill.

While a number of traditional weavers took the recycling call as a chance to clean out old stocks, using decades-old thread and yarn, others, such as Joan Lewis, took their work to another level. Lewis, who weaves and dyes her own fabric, submitted gorgeous silk and woven paper jackets, and an award-winning red kimono features the intricate embroidery of her daughter, Colleen.

Then there are the eclectic pieces. A couple of artists submitted clothing made of used coffee filters, and others wove discarded materials from old computers into tapestries and sculptures. A Chilean artist constructed metro cards into a shower curtain, and in one especially poignant piece, an oncology nurse wove a rug of cut-up chemotherapy bags.

Exhibit co-chairwoman Sidney Lynch, who's been with the hui for 15 years, says the beauty of the biennial is how it challenges artists.

“;Having a theme really has them considering what they're doing, and they rise to the occasion,”; she says. “;Many artists create something different from what they would normally produce. It pushes people to push their boundaries.”;

Another aspect of the show of which Lynch is particularly proud is its intention to be inclusive.

“;We have 50 artists and 101 works in the show, and this year the juror kept everything,”; she says. “;This is one of the more interesting shows. It attracted all disciplines.”;

While that might be appalling to purists of the juried show, Lynch says part of the hui's approach is to encourage artists to display their work. And that egalitarian philosophy extends to the audience.

“;Our biennial attracts artists beyond just hand-weavers, and they use a broad spectrum of materials and techniques. There are so many different types of work, there's a little bit here for everyone.”;