At First Hawaiian Center | Barnaby, Juan, Mitsuda

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    Mary Mitsuda. '‘ʻĀina II," 2013. Acrylic on panel.

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    Artist Elroy Juan with a selection of his decorated water gourds.

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    Margaret Barnaby. "Resilience," 2014. Multiple plate color woodblock print on Stonehenge paper.

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April 25, 2014 - August 22, 2014
First Hawaiian Center

Exhibition Overview

Moment: Paintings by Mary Mitsuda

Born and raised in Honolulu, Mary Mitsuda’s works have been widely exhibited in Hawaiʻi and are included in many public, private and corporate collections including the Four Seasons Wailea, Ritz Carlton, Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, and the Honolulu Museum of Art.

Her acrylic-on-canvas and panel paintings explore the visual effects achieved through the juxtaposition of carefully controlled horizontal lines with the spontaneity of dripped and scraped surfaces. In works such as Piñata and Vapor Trails, brushes laden with paint are dragged along a horizontal straight edge, leaving traces of its path as drips, both large and small, fall in vertical lines below. Some paint drips continue to the bottom of the canvas, while others converge and join with other drips, the whole orchestrated to include marks planned and accidental.

As in the ʻĀina series, many of her works incorporate multiple thin layers of paint so that underlying textures are visible through the translucent surfaces, creating a sense of geologic stratification and suggesting different ways of interpreting what is seen. While gazing at Mitsuda’s paintings, one can often find recognizable imagery such as flowers, plants, landscapes, and crumpled paper/icebergs, but often the abstract marks are left for the viewer to interpret.

She often thinks of her works as portraits or biographies of single moments examined from different perspectives—full of systems, patterns, and anomalies created from individual marks that are similar, yet varied.

“The moment I am interested in is the cusp, the transition between the rise and fall in a cycle,” says Mitsuda. “It’s generally a quiet moment and when we are aware of being at that balance point, our vision seems to widen and also deepen. We reconnect with very elemental memories.

I hope that, in passing by, people hear something in the painting, something in the voice of it that makes them pause, lean in for a closer listen and look.”

See more of Mary Mitsuda's work in the exhibition.

Hue Wai Pawehe: New Art from Ancient Techniques by Elroy Juan

Elroy Juan was born on the Hamakua Coast of Hawai‘i Island, where he still lives and farms. His mother was of Hawaiian descent, and an accomplished lei maker, while his father made woven throw nets and bamboo baskets. Juan began collaborating with Georgia Sartoris in 1992 in perfecting methods for growing and dyeing the hue wai pawehe (decorated Hawaiian water gourd).

In traditional Hawaiian culture, gourds were used in many ways, including as containers to hold liquids. Juan grows his ipu in a form that can hold water. To create the patterns, he incises the skin of a mature gourd with a design, then dyes it with a mixture made from leaves, roots and bark. The gourds are filled with dye or immersed in a vat until the desired effect is achieved.  

Concepts for the individual designs arise from observing the ipu while it grows, and by holding it once it is harvested. When beginning a design, Juan often thinks of forms of water, such as rain on a window, or the surface of the ocean. The designs are related to traditional Hawaiian forms but are unique to the artist and the ipu.

Juan first showed his hue wai pawehe at Bishop Museum in 2008. HeHe has also exhibited at the Festival of Pacific Arts in New Caledonia and his work is in the collection of the Bishop Museum, the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the Moana Hotel and Qantas Airlines.

Mostly 'Alalā: Prints by Margaret Barnaby

Growing up in New England, Margaret Barnaby saw a lot of crows. “They’re big and busy and loud, and it’s a bird you see easily and often,” she says. When she moved to Volcano, Hawai‘i Island, from New York in 1998, she learned about the severely endangered native Hawaiian corvid, the ‘alala. And it is the absence of crows on Hawai‘i Island that sparked her interest in the ‘alala.

“Due to the aggressive captive breeding program in Volcano, there are now around 100 birds,” explains the studio art jeweler-turned-woodblock printmaker. “I use the ‘alala as a symbol of what is best and worst about people. We are the reason that these birds and plants are in trouble, and we have the power to protect them. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that a big black bird has a lot of graphic punch….In the Hawaiian language the word ‘alala is synonymous for the bird and for loud crying. Maybe the voice of the ‘alala in my prints can move people to be more aware and caring about the world in which we live.”

She creates the woodblock prints by carving six or more plywood plates by hand. Each plate contains part of the image, and can be used to print one or more colors. The plates are inked using brayers and rollers with oil-based lithography inks and printed on an etching press in succession to build the final picture. Barnaby prints small variable editions that often take more than a month to complete.

Barnaby spends considerable time planning the composition of each print. She desires an activated surface so that the viewer’s attention moves around the image of the birds as they might appear in their native Hawaiian habitat.

Exhibitions and programs at First Hawaiian Center are sponsored by First Hawaiian Bank.

Hours, location + details for First Hawaiian Center: Click here.

Special Programming: Artist Gallery Talks

Meet on the second-floor mezzanine level, validated parking will be provided

Margaret Barnaby and Elroy Juan
Friday, April 25, 11am.

Mary Mitsuda
Friday, May 2, 11am