The 4,000-square-foot gallery is populated with just 36 pieces. Bangerter said the artists were selected from a list of exhibitors and from those who have submitted proposals for exhibits.
She asked the chosen artists “to go beyond in both depth and scale.”
Bangerter also wanted to give some attention to some outstanding new faces, such as Jonathan Y. Clark, Renee Wilcox, Travis Browne, Andrew Binkley, Casey Neumann, Jaisy Hanlon, Melissa Chimera and Katie Cox.
Christy Vail’s stoneware and encaustic Jan Ken Po returns the viewer to a time when decision-making was simpler.
At the same time, she selected some of Maui’s most accomplished and well-known artists, such as Christy Vail, James Hanlon, Howard Lapp, Steven Smeltzer, Richard Hevner, Eddie Flotte, Connie Adams, Lori Koprowski, Lali Groth, Nancy Skrimstad, Claudia Coonen, Sandra Clark, Wanda Russell, Ditmar Hoerl and Wilma Nakamura to name a few.
Most of the artists answered Bangerter’s charge—some in spades. Where the Mind Takes Flight by Charlie Lyon is a large painting, that commands attention even before walking through the gallery door. The work is so evocative, you can almost feel the wind pushing you across the gallery like a galleon in a gale.
Andrew Binkley’s Breathing Field is one of two video installations. On the wall, a nine-minute loop of multiple images of the sea in various stages is so realistic that a viewer experienced sea sickness. On the floor is a masterful, multiple-image, digital photo of many of Maui’s sacred places.
One of the most exciting and intricate pieces in the show is Renee Wilcox’s Continuum. A series of colorful, swirling strips of clay and wood hang from hundreds of translucent lines signifying the cycle of water from the sea to the sky to the mountain tops into the valleys and back into the sea.
Two of the stars of the Hui No‘eau’s Annual Juried Exhibition 2010 show have work here as well. Jaisy Hanlon and Melissa Chimera have gone big. Hanlon’s Jungle Bomb literally explodes off the wall. The movement in the work is palpable—bugs crawl, and birds soar and dart about as the jungle goes off like aerial fireworks on Fourth of July.
Chimera demonstrates her versatility with a huge mixed-media diptych. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (after William Blake) is a work that marries Blake’s illustrative style with the love story portion of Steven Goldsberry’s Maui the Demigod: An Epic Tale of Mythic Hawai‘i. It is an astonishing work, both intellectually challenging and emotionally engaging.
Both Hanlon and Chimera are artists to watch. Savvy collectors should grab these pieces now, because soon they will be commanding museum prices.
Michael Worcester is another artist who went above and beyond. Worcester, of the island’s most royal glass dynasty, always creates beautiful work, but this time he has made art. His work, Wai Wai, which means water and wealth, symbolizes both our dependent relationship on water and our need to conserve it.
Water is also the theme of Masako Cordray’s extraordinary digital portrait of one of Maui’s most powerful voices for stream restoration—Lyn Kepani Kaleialoha Scott. The artist and her husband risked life and limb to get the shot.
Gwen Arkin is to photography what the ‘akepa is to birds—close to extinction. She still works in film. For Arkin, Maui’s essence is found at the Maui County Fair at night, when the midway is teaming and the neon is aglow.
Free Your Mortal Shell is another of James Hanlon’s deeply personal meditative works. An anatomically correct heart hangs on the tile outside the shuttered entrance of a series of stores. In front is a Buddha wrapped with gleaming ribbon in saffron cloth, a smiling skull lies on a thin cinder block while a tabby cat follows a tattooed young man in a sarong. The island glistens in the background. It is a stunning and unforgettable image exhibiting both Hanlon’s technical excellence and his unique perspective.
Like Kirk Kurokowa, Caleb O’Connor and Noble Richardson, Jonathan Y. Clark is another young (22-year-old) Maui artist who has burst onto the scene for the first time in a major show. His work is exciting, innovative and unique. For Clark, Maui’s essence is the diversity of the cultures that coexist today and the profound inspiration of Hawai‘i’s myths.
From St. John’s Church to a picket fence and a goat, Keokea is Maui’s core for Lali Groth. Her 21-panel Pages from a Keokea Notebook is one of the most whimsical in the show.
Connie Adams’ watercolor, Breathing Lessons, captures the essence of our winter leviathan visitors perfectly–both on the sea’s surface and beneath it.
Finally, Ditmar Hoerl, whose only rival for being the most consistently interesting artist on Maui is Tom Sewell, has given the viewer the most profoundly political image in the show. Entitlement simply and thoughtfully demonstrates the dichotomy between the Hawaiian and Western cultures.
On Feb. 5 from 5 to 7 p.m., many of the artists will be at the gallery to discuss the process of their work.
The Essence of Maui is open until Feb. 20. The gallery is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except Sunday), and before and during Castle Theater show intermissions.