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Veterans at HoMA (from left) Diana Garcia, Genji Lamansky, Daniel Jimenez, Marlon Peralta, Shuzo Uemoto, Patrick Canonigo and Budd Lauer

This summer, Honolulu Museum of Art—along with 2,000 other museums around the country—would like to thank our visitors in the military for their service by participating in Blue Star Museums, a collaboration between the National Endowments for the Arts, Blue Star Families and the Department of Defense. As part of the program, HoMA is offering active-duty military personnel and their families free admission as well as 10 percent off purchases in the Museum Shop from May 18 to September 2.

The free admission program is open to those with a Geneva Convention common access card (CAC), a DD Form 1173 ID card (dependent ID), or a DD Form 1173-1 ID card, which includes active-duty military in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, as well as members of the National Guard and Reserve, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps. Up to five family members can join in on the offer. Just show your ID at our front desk to redeem.

HoMA has participated in the program every summer since it began in 2009 so, in honor of the collaboration’s tenth year, we sat down with a few of the many veterans on our staff to hear their stories and personally thank them for their service. Museum staff working in virtually every department including visitor services, communications, development, operations and security have previously served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard at some point in their careers. We will be sharing their stories in future blog posts throughout the summer. If you see any of HoMA’s veterans next time you visit, please remember to thank them for their service!

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Did you know that only a small fraction of HoMA’s collection is on view in our galleries at any given time? The majority of our permanent collection—over 50,000 works—resides underground in our vault, protected from damaging elements like light and moisture. Our From the Vault events offer opportunities for visitors to get up-close-and-intimate with hidden gems from the collection that rarely (if ever) go on public view. Below, members of our curatorial staff share notes on the pieces they presented at From the Vault: iPOV [infected] last month.

Curatorial assistant Jesi Lujan Bennett (right) discussing works from Micronesia

Oceania is often relegated to the edges of the art canon, and this mode of thought is reflected in how many art museums typically do not have Oceanic works in their galleries. April’s From the Vault event, in conjunction with Lisa Reihana: Emissaries, gave me the opportunity to engage with HoMA’s Oceanic Collection and think about how we choose to represent Pacific Islanders and our region.

HoMA has part of a gallery dedicated to Oceania, however the Micronesian region is missing from this visual story. Part of this absence is due to the small collection the museum has of historic and contemporary works from the various Micronesian island groups. HoMA is fortunate to have paintings from Palauan artist, Charlie Gibbons. Gibbons started his artistic career carving storyboards and later began creating watercolors for which he became internationally recognized. Born in 1895, he lived through multiple waves of colonialism in Palau. Trading Ship in Palau Picking Up Trepang (for China) at T Dock Ngerkemais speaks to outsiders’ understandings of the region as isolated. He shows part of this colonial history through trade and encounters with non-Palauans. I positioned the painting in conversation with an early 19th century Chamoru ålas, or sea turtle breast pendant, to further highlight Micronesia. Turtle shell is a valued material in the Mariana Islands, and an ålas is part of a complex network of social relations, including the ultimate gift of reciprocity. Together, these pieces illuminate a void in many art museums’ collections, and provide an important opportunity for greater understanding of the complex stories emerging from Pacific Islands.

Left: detail of Trading Ship in Palau Picking Up Trepang (for China) at T Dock Ngerkemais
Right: 19th century Chamoru ålas

The last piece I discussed was D. Howard Hitchcock’s Rosebank, Lower Nuuanu Valley (1890). Hitchcock is known for his landscape paintings of Hawaiʻi. His romanticized depictions of the islands were used to draw in tourists to what he portrayed as islands void of people. Rosebank, Lower Nuuanu Valley (1890) remains in the vaults because of an addition of an impossibly tall flagstaff waving the Hawaiian Kingdom flag. There are accounts of people seeing the painting without the flag before HoMA acquired the gift. Perhaps the addition of the Hawaiian flag is meant to be a statement about the turbulent political era for the Hawaiian Kingdom during the 1890s. It is hard to pin down the specifics of this addition to the painting, however I am intrigued by the mystery behind it.

—Jesi Lujan Bennett, Curatorial Assistant for the Arts of Hawaiʻi, Oceania, Africa, and the Americas

For the From the Vault presentation, I brought in several works from the collection that had not been on view recently due to several factors. Historically, female artists have been represented in museums significantly less frequently than their male counterparts. According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, even though 51% of visual artists working today are women, only about 5% of artworks featured in major U.S. museums are made by women. Additionally, HoMA holds only one work by each of these artists, and all of the pieces incorporate a fragile media such as paper or fiber that cannot be on view and exposed to light for lengthy periods of time.

Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art Katherine Love sharing Models with Hats Thinking about Models without Hats

A photograph by Jan Groover (Untitled, 1989) and a drawing by Joan Brown (Models with Hats Thinking about Models without Hats, 1961) depict artists’ studios. Groover’s still life of bottles and statuettes references classical formal drawing studies, and is bathed in a reddish-golden light, comparable to the color of Conté crayon, a traditional drawing material. Brown’s drawing features female models in a studio setting. In the classical European academies of the 19th century, women artists were restricted from drawing the male nude model, a practice considered necessary for proper training in art. Here, Brown takes control of the scene by depicting her models from a female point of view.

Untitled Heirlooms by Jeanne Friscia

Lastly, we discussed three handkerchiefs (Untitled Heirlooms, 1997-2000) by San Francisco-based artist Jeanne Friscia. Friscia’s fiber pieces from the late 1990s incorporate alternative materials such as homemade feminine hygiene supplies, to investigate themes of the body and sexuality. Using handkerchiefs passed down from her grandfather or found at thrift stores, the artist crocheted her own hair into the lacework sections. The resulting pieces retain a feeling of nostalgia, as well as emanate a disturbing undertone, as if the viewer has intruded into a private space. Look for Friscia’s works in the upcoming exhibition 21st Century Women, on view beginning June 8 in the Clare Boothe Luce Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art.

—Katherine Love, Assistant Curator Contemporary Art

From the Vault provided visitors with an opportunity to view some of the treasures we have stored in the museum. There are many factors that can alter our decision in choosing artwork to showcase which often dictates any narrative that speaks to each piece.

Curator of Textiles Sara Oka (left) discussing elements of the Sioux woman’s dress

One such treasure sits patiently in storage, waiting for conservation before it can be put on view. The Sioux woman’s dress, adorned with 100 elk teeth, is carefully stabilized, covered with netting to secure the decorative elements. There are holes in the base cloth and missing red silk ribbons. In researching the background of these dresses made of wool cloth from England, commonly listed during the fur trade, we discovered the deliberate pieced construction of the garment. Wool was easier to maintain, yet the cut of the dress resembled the animal skin leather of the original dresses, with longer side panels. Another interesting feature was the incorporation of the undyed selvedge with a tie-dyed effect that was favored as a decorative border on the hem and edge of sleeves. Western dress would have hidden the selvedge in the seam, or cut it off.

Elk teeth detail from the Sioux woman’s dress

These design choices are a reminder that preserving cultural identities from a historical perspective should not be a fixed placeholder within an ethnographic context, but rather part of a continuum of artistic liberties of evolving practices. Twenty-first century dresses are still made of the same Stroud wool cloth, but adorned with shells or plastic teeth, keeping this tradition alive. Looking back is also a reminder that we are all in a state of flux as we move forward.

—Sara Oka, Curator of Textiles

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Tim and Doris Tilden in 2010

On May 1, 2019—at 101 years young—Doris Tilden died peacefully in her sleep.

Doris volunteered at the museum for nearly 20 years in many departments, including the Visitor Information Center, the Library, Development, Public Relations and the Café. In 2003 the museum honored Doris as Volunteer of the Year at the National Philanthropy Day award ceremony. She retired in 2008.

Standing just 4’8″ tall, she was a source of boundless energy—never without a smile, always ready to lend a hand. Greatly respected for her candor, Doris never shied away from speaking her mind. If she disagreed with a decision, however, she always presented a worthy alternative.

“We learned a lot from Doris,” says Beryl Caderas, retired VIC manager. “She taught us patience, writing skills, keeping a positive attitude, pride in your work and problem solving!”

After she retired, Doris stared going to Makapu’u with her son, Tim, who was shooting photos of the hang gliders soaring over Sea Life Park. She became an avid spectator, and her many conversations with hang gliders formed the basis of her first book, Hang Gliding in Hawaii, a comprehensive history of the sport’s arrival and rise to popularity in the islands.

At age 92, Doris underwent a successful open heart surgery. Her insatiable curiosity in the face of such a daunting procedure led her to ask endless questions, requiring her doctors to explain everything in exhaustive detail. Doris compiled her copious notes and reflections of the experience into a memoir, A Saga of Open Heart Surgery, co-authored with Tim.

Doris loved the museum and meeting and greeting visitors from around the world, she became a tutu to everyone. She lived every one of her 101 years to the very fullest, and we are so grateful for her time at HoMA.

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Teens can spend June in the museum! Museology is a Young Artist class (ages 13-18) for all the art lovers, art critics and those with wondering minds. Each class, students will visit art galleries in the museum and then respond to what they see through discussions and inspired art-making. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to learn more about the museum and its incredible collection of art, led by artist and educator Janet Tran. 

Why should students sign up for Museology? 

Janet Tran: Art is such a vast and diverse subject that delves into many unique pathways, questions, and experiences that make it perfect for a deep dive exploration. There’s no better place than within the museum spaces alongside others who love art to come together and get inspired, and begin to understand or uncover something new in the world of art.  There is always something interesting to discover at the museum! We’ll learn about the art, ourselves and have opportunities to create art inspired by the  collection.  

What’s your favorite part about working at the Museum?

Janet Tran: Seeing how excited students, visitors, and fellow museum staff are with their experiences here whether it be seeing new artworks, learning new skills, or the numerous daily art happenings going on.  It’s great to be surrounded by art in all its forms as well as by those who support it whole-heartedly.

Describe your own art practice. 

Janet Tran: It’s fueled by constant ideas that keep circulating within my mind to a point where eventually my concepts of “What if…?” are realized into what I hope are fun, imaginative, and ultimately engaging works for myself and others. I’m always looking forward to creative challenges and using what knowledge, resources, and skills I possess to problem solve in order to keep me open-minded and flexible to whatever comes my way.

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Mother’s Day is less than a week away! Still need a gift? A selection of one-of-a-kind jewelry has just landed at the Museum Shop. Here are some of our favorite pieces:

Tough Cookie Necklace by Juju Supply Co.

Juju Supply Co. is curated by a pair of lifelong friends, Jonathan and Casey, who reconnected in the wake of cancer and divorce. They began their partnership by sharing their most beloved lucky charms—tying things on each other, passing back and forth amulets, crystals, talismans, and trinkets as morale boosters and reminders of brighter days ahead. Prices range from $60-$150.

Iron Leaf Pendant by Julie Cohn $395

Julie Cohn creates beautiful, limited edition, handcrafted bronze jewelry. As a self-taught jeweler, her approach is unconventional in process and begins by working directly with materials rather than sketching a preconceived idea. Her pieces generate possibilities for layering and stacking to create personal collages that uniquely juxtapose disparate elements with simple elegance.

Stretching Kitty Studs by Rare Rabbit Jewelry

We are huge fans of these charming studs by Rare Rabbit—made with quality, natural materials, lightweight and perfect to wear, day or night. Based in Australia, Rare Rabbit was started by women whose mission is to design sustainably-produced products that inspire creativity. Gold or silver plated studs, sterling silver post, hypoallergenic $21.95

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James A. Michener giving a lecture at the Academy of Arts. Date unknown

One morning in late 2016, I found an exciting email in my inbox.

It was an invitation from The National Association of Japan-America Societies (NAJAS) to deliver a lecture on James A. Michener. As many people know, Michener was a famous author and Hawai’i resident. He was also a serious collector of Japanese woodblock prints, and one of the Honolulu Museum of Art’s greatest benefactors in this area.

List of print donations by James Michener, from “Preserving the Floating World” lecture.

In 2017, NAJAS sent me to Seattle, Washington, to discuss our James A. Michener Collection of Japanese Prints, which is comprised of 6,102 prints dating from the 17th century through the late 20th century, at the Seattle Art Museum. As a former Seattle Asian Art Museum intern, I knew that city had robust holdings in Japanese art, particularly in nihonga paintings from the early 20th century, so I was especially honored that they were interested in the story behind our print collection. I presented the lecture, entitled “Preserving the Floating World,” at the Seattle Art Museum in May 2017.

Fast forward to 2018—I’ve just returned from a wonderful week in Pennsylvania, James Michener’s home state, where I presented an updated version of my talk at the Maridon Museum in Butler City and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. It was exhilarating to be in a city with such an intriguing history! Its transformation from a center for steel production in the late 19th century to its current incarnation as a gorgeous university town—home of both Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh—is remarkable. The breathtaking Art Deco architecture frequently made me feel like I’d been transported back to the roaring 1920s. Last but not least, the Carnegie Museum of Art, whose spectacular collection of paintings, including works by Winslow Homer, James Whistler, Jackson Pollock, Alberto Giacometti, and Andy Warhol, was largely developed over the past 123 years through acquisitions from its biennial exhibition, the Carnegie International. This made me realize the incredible long-term possibilities for our own collaboration with the Honolulu Biennial.

This amazing story about James Michener and the generosity with which he blessed the Honolulu Museum of Art reminds me how important every member of our museum community is and how, through the kind of single-minded dedication that Michener displayed, any one of us is capable of lifting an institution in our community to unforeseen heights.

The National Association of Japan-America Societies (NAJAS), is a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C. that offers educational, cultural, and business programs about U.S.-Japan relations to the general public through its 40 branches, including the Japan-America Society of Hawaii, based here in Honolulu. NAJAS recently began the Richard J. Wood Art Curators Series, in which representatives of “the best known collections of Japanese art” discuss the history of their museums to audiences at museums in other parts of the country.

-Stephen Salel, Robert F. Lange Foundation Curator of Japanese Art

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Did you miss visiting Honolulu Biennial 2019 artist Nicholas Galanin’s talk last week? Not to worry, you can listen to it now, exclusively on HoMA’s SoundCloud channel!

Nicholas Galanin Artist Talk: Not Sardonic, Not Cynical, A Response to White Institution - SoundCloud
(3643 secs long)Play in SoundCloud

Follow HoMA on Soundcloud or visit the SoundCloud tab in the HoMA app for more behind-the-scenes conversations, artist talks, and exclusive audio content.

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This summer at the Art School, instructor Rachel Huntley will introduce young artists (ages 9-12) to the world of Sculpture & 3D Art. During this month-long class, students will work with a variety of materials such as clay, plaster, fabric and cardboard to create three dimensional art, focusing on the foundations of composition and seeking inspiration from the Museum’s collection.

I spent some time with Rachel in HoMA’s Modernism gallery to find out more about her inspiration and creative practice.

Which artwork in the Museum Collection is your favorite? 

Rachel Huntley: Harry Bertoia, Sounding Sculpture.

Why?

RH: As this is one of the only artworks in the museum you can touch, this work is among my top favorites in the museum’s collection. I love this work because of how Bertoia invites the viewer, not only to activate the piece, but to also fill the space with sound—a space that is typically still and quiet. I always love to sit with the work after setting it in motion, listening to the sounds change and soften, and waiting till the rods settle back into stillness.

Why should students sign up for Sculpture? 

RH: Sculpture & 3D art will offer young artists a chance to dive into and experiment with all different kinds of materials and technique like clay, plaster, wood, cardboard, soft sculpture and more, in a studio setting that encourages young artists to think outside of the box and try new things. We will work big, small, and all the different ways in between. This class is great for any young artist with an excitement to create artwork with their own ideas and get their sculpture skills on!

What’s your favorite part about working at the Museum?

RH: I love being surrounded by other passionate artists and creative minds whether they are my colleagues or the young artists that I teach. I am always learning new things and ways of thinking, and I love being involved in such a special place.

Describe your own art practice. 

RH: In my art practice I am interested in how material, form, light, space, and time intersect with one another. Often large-scale, I build and manipulate sculptural forms out of plaster, fabric, and other materials, into installations and sensory experiences, that center around the human condition, self-agency, empathy, time, and the seen/unseen. I love sharing my passion for working large-scale and with a variety of materials with my students.

work by Rachel Huntley

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The heat of summer is upon us! Chill out at the HoMA Coffee Bar with one of our iced beverages. For the caffeine lover, the HoMA Cold Brew will cool you down and wake you up. Poured over ice, we slowly brew this cold, caffeinated elixir from locally-roasted dark coffee from Kona Coffee Purveyors. If a juicy and refreshing handmade soda sounds appealing, let us muddle up a Fresh Citrus Spritzer with Tahitian lime, fresh mint, cane juice and seltzer to refresh your palate and quench your thirst. The Coffee Bar is nestled up near our Indian Art gallery—after exploring, why not try an Indian-inspired beverage: The Iced Chai? Our chai is mixed onsite using herbs, spices and a strong black tea, then mixed with milk or soy milk and poured over ice.
The Coffee Bar is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10AM to 4PM.

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Still looking for that perfect Mother’s Day gift? The Museum Shop has you covered with these one-of-a-kind pieces by local artists from the Friendly Isle.

Pine needle baskets by Terry Klerlein

Living onMoloka’i, Terry Klerlein gathers all the materials used in creating her one-of-a-kind pine needle baskets. Her love for the mountains and forests combined with her appreciation of color, texture, rich designs and natural materials translates easily to the ancient traditional art of pine needle basket weaving. “I’m in awe of the wealth of natural materials to be found on Moloka’i: the treasures from the sea and vegetation. My love of the island and its incredible beauty are my inspiration. I hope every basket I weave is evidence of the joy I find in creating with nature’s gifts, my hands, and my heart.”

T-Shirts by PōMahina designs

Kanoelani Davis, founder of PōMahina Designs, is a true kama a Hina (child of the goddess Hina), with familial ties to Moloka’i extending back for generations. A lifelong cultural practitioner, her dedication to culture, advocacy for cultural awareness and love for design form the basis of the patterns adorning the wearable art of PōMahina Designs

Ceramic salt jars by Kim Markham, $40-80

Retired accountant Kim Markham has found her true passion in clay and sculpture.  “As long as I am alive and can shape the clay, I shall be delighted to indulge in earth and water, painting with oxides and elements, pushing forms upward and imagining how my glaze concoctions will mature. And yet, as a ceramic artist I am tormented because I must surrender my creations, in regular and ritual sacrifice, to the kiln gods.  Every firing is followed by days of uncertainty.  Will my intentions be blessed or will I find a horrid mess, an explosion, an abject failure that took many of the diminishing days of my life to create? I’m on a roller coaster of intermittent gratification. I am like a mother who lives vicariously through her children. As my skill has grown, more of my artworks survive, and some are sublime. After firing, I touch them many times to imbue them with additional mana.  I keep them for a while, tracing the glaze runs, memorizing the colors and textures, until it’s time to release them.”

Gourmet sea salt by salt master Nancy Gove, $12.95

Nancy Gove’s pioneering spirit and devotion to creating the finest quality salt has put Pacifica Hawaii in the forefront of international salt production. Pacifica Hawaii gourmet sea salts are complex on the palate–offering subtle sweetness with the piquancy of sea-extracted salt. The signature gourmet line of Hawaiian Traditionals is timeless and flavorful. The Blush Salts are sophisticated and enticing. The Specialty line is delectable and fun.

Monoprint cards by Paula Scott, $15

Each of Paula Scott‘s handmade monoprints is unique. The botanical prints are from leaves, collected from a nearby forest in Pala’au Park on Moloka’i. Stencils are also used in combination or alone to create layered images. Each card easily fits a 5×7″ frame but they can also be layered in groups of unique color combinations.

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