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Honolulu Museum of Art Commissions Maui Artists
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Maui-based artists Gwen Arkin and Andy Behrle have been selected to create new artworks for Honolulu Museum of Art’s (HoMA) upcoming exhibition, Artists of Hawai’i 2020.
Both Arkin and Behrle will be creating pieces that investigate burning issues in Hawaiʻi.
Arkin’s project will use cyanotype, a primitive photographic process, to create images of threatened species of edible algae (limu) native to Hawaiian waters to address the issue of climate change and global warming.
The cyanotype process utilizes a mixture of iron compounds that turn blue when exposed to light, much like the origins of “blueprint” architectural drawings. Arkin’s artwork is inspired by the work of 19th Century British botanist, Anna Atkins, who is regarded as the first person to publish a book of photographic prints – also cyanotypes of algae – in 1843.
Arkin will be creating an immersive installation of hanging limu-printed cyanotypes on silk to emulate an undersea limu garden. The resulting prints display the otherworldly life-forms of the sea in exquisite detail, revealing their minute cellular make-up. Arkin’s response to these disappearing organisms is to create records of their existence and to raise questions about their historical, culture and ecological significance. Her goal is to inspire fresh perspectives, awareness, and engagement with these humble ocean life forms, while reminding the viewer that beauty beckons from even the most remote and unseen corners of our glorious planet.
Andy Behrle’s project will re-imagine a Hawaiian Flag Quilt from HoMA’s collection using digital video footage of the waters of the eight major Hawaiian Islands.
In many ways, this new artwork echoes his 2019 lost and found public art project for Wailuku’s Small Town * Big Art initiative. Last September, Behrle projected his re-creation of a window from Wailuku’s Saint Anthony’s church lost to arson in 1977 onto the side of Historic ʻĪao Theater during a First Friday celebration.
Behrle will use footage he has collected mauka to makai on Maui, The Big Island, and Kauai for his “re-imagined” Ku’u Hae Aloha (My Beloved Flag) quilt. Over the next 4 months, he will make visits to historical cultural sites on Lāna’i, Oahu, Moloka’i, Ni’ihau, and Kaho’olawe to collect more footage for his project. By merging the tradition of quilting and imagery of the Hawaiian Kingdom flag with videos from the natural environment and digital video editing processes, the project reflects upon the geologic and human histories across the islands. Behrle sees this project as one in which “the past and future collide through the natural and digital worlds” through the tapestry of water sites and issues in our state.
Gwen Arkin has been a mainstay in the Maui art community for years and teaches photography and design at the University of Hawaiʻi, Maui College.
Andy Behrle arrived in the islands just over a year ago and has been creating site-specific video installations around the world over the past decade.
While HoMA’s triennial Artists of Hawai‘i exhibition has solidified the tradition of showcasing talented, Hawai‘i-based artists through a contemporary lens, museum representatives say the 2020 exhibition roster pushes the envelope through its diversity of artistic background, subject and range.
Encouraged to explore the urgent issues of our time and place, a group of artists was chosen by co-curators Marlene Siu, Exhibition Manager at HoMA School, and Taylour Chang, Curator of Film and Performance, following the exhibition’s open-call submission process.
“The artists selected for Artists of Hawaiʻi 2020 encompass a broad spectrum of levels within their artistic careers: from emerging artists who have never shown before to artists who are featured in national and international collections that are unified through their bold voices and innovative practices,” Siu said in a press release.
As a testament to the Artists of Hawai‘i exhibition’s legacy of local representation, the topics expressed through the artwork will bring to the forefront the timely and controversial issues that face the people of Hawai‘i, and touch the rest of the world, according to the museum.
“With these twenty artists, we couldn’t have asked for a more boundary-pushing line-up of visionaries and community leaders.” Chang added.
“We’re incredibly excited to embark on this year-long journey with the artists to support their visions, to challenge people’s expectations, and to reimagine what’s possible for Hawaiʻi through art.”
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