The annual juried members show for the Association of Hawaii Artists went up this month and is on view at the Mayor’s City Hall. There is a wide variety of art styles and techniques and the awardees also reflect that. The juror was Tony Martins, an art professor at the Windward Community College in Kane’ohe Hawai’i.
I really enjoyed coming to the opening reception to just wander and look at the other work, eat pupus and mingle with other artists. It can be a solitary existence, being an artist, so these social events are a nice way to get out and get a nice break and breath of fresh air.
I had a Swedish artist tell me once, he avoided these group shows because he did not want his art ‘tainted’ by others, consciously or unconsciously and I didn’t understand what he meant at the time. Now, I think I understand, but don’t agree, with his viewpoint. That is, I think looking at masters in special exhibitions and musuems are always instructional and inspirational. Going to modern and contemporary shows with your peers–both those who are less or more skilled than oneself, and those who are emerging or established artists–well, I can see if you are the one who is still not quite formed in your practice and visual vocabulary, it can be risky to appropriate someone else’s style and language. But the work still remains to be done–as an artist, we all still need to find our own voice and in the end, if we are immature and emulate others, when we mature–we still have our own unique perspective. I admire Vincent Van Gogh, for different reasons through the years. I think I will always admire him, and yes, I have made some copies of his work–I did his copy of a Japanese woodblock print of a famous old cherry tree in oil in encaustic–my medium. But copies are how children learn–by emulating others they admire or respect–and then, through careful observation and then mastering technique, you go on to create your own work.
I have 2 pieces in the show. One is a plein air piece of my favorite spot, at Ulumau looking at the Ko’olau–on a voggy day. My ambivalence is there both uncomfortable and soothing. The other piece is a postcard of my cousin visiting from Japan feeding the koi at Byodoin at Temple Valley, another favorite place, but I haven’t gotten around to painting much yet. Her gesture caught my eye, she was so focused on getting the food out there for all the fish to have a chance to eat…it was a flash of her character–unaware that she was being watched–isn’t that when we show ourselves? I painted it because I realized she is a teenager now, and those moments are past–her character is shaped and maybe solidifying–but back then it was pure and fluid–on a good path that I hope will continue into old age.
So, do I feel it is dangerous to go see others’ work? No, not for me, anyway. Would I get upset if someone copied me? No, but I hope they are learning, not just mimicking–which in that case, I feel pity. My favorite artists explored different styles and subject matter: Vincent, David Hockney, among others, and while it may not have been commercially or pop culturally famous–it was definitely worthy of their time and effort.