Aaron Padilla went to Kauai and found artists whose works convey a sense of place unique to the island.
“When people think about art in Hawaii, they typically think about art trends like landscapes, beach scenes and sunsets, but this collection is devoid of cliche images and objects,” says Padilla, who juried the 30th annual “Art Kauai” exhibition. “There are great things happening on the fringes of this state, and particularly in Kauai.”
“Art Kauai” features work by 56 artists in ceramics, fiber, painting, photography, wood and mixed media. Some of Hawaii’s most notable artists, such as Sally French, Carol Bennett and Bruna Stude, are a part of the show. It runs through Oct. 30 at the Kaua‘i Society of Artists Gallery. The group has organized the show for 30 years.
Padilla, director of the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Spalding House and an artist himself, sought to sculpt the voice of Kauai from the more than 120 works of art. He calls the winning collection original and says it includes artists who take risks. They push the envelope and expand the definition of contemporary art by developing and articulating concepts that aren’t mainstream, and by employing unique techniques.
“There are some interesting things happening on Kauai that I don’t see in Honolulu,” says Padilla. “That was the best part of the whole experience.”
Padilla was especially impressed by artists who are looking outward, who are informed by today’s art and are putting their own spin on it. Some artists responded to old master paintings in 3-D media, technique and process, with a sensibility that Padilla says could have happened only on Kauai.
“Art is all about manipulating material,” says Padilla. “Seeing artists using different materials in different ways is always refreshing. I was really moved by the thoughtfulness of some of the artists who were honoring Kauai’s history. The Garden Island is a cross between a demographic deeply rooted in plantation culture, and a new generation of young people who are trying to find their own identity by looking outward, as well as an influx of outsiders from all over, making Kauai their new home.
“It’s an interesting dynamic, and if you take a look at the work in the exhibition, it plays itself out. You’ll see nods to the past, influences from beyond these islands, and evocative glimpses into the future. They all come together in this really interesting way.”