Art exhibit reveals a ‘Brave New World’

Gallery ‘Iolani’s latest exhibit, “A Brave New World,” showcased the works of artists who began their artistic journeys at community colleges – Anthony Davis

A crowd gathers across the Hale Pālanakila courtyard. Eager art lovers, passerbys and students intermingle and banter. A curious excitement grows as a new group weaves its way among the crowd–the artists. These select few have been hand-picked for Gallery ‘Iolani’s latest exhibit.

Running March 29 to May 5, “Brave New World” hosted the cumulative works of Alina Kawai, Erin Marquez, Kana Ogawa, Bronson Shimabukuro, Daniel Stratis, Chiho Ushio and Andrew Yamauchi. The exhibition drew on the possibilities of change in a beautifully fragile world that’s seeing more and more of its inhabitants shrink away into the digital landscape and withdraw further from real world connections. The exhibit literature states that “every generation has a story to tell.” The gathering of these artists and ideas served to communicate this.

“This is an exhibit not to be missed,” gallery director Toni Martin said. “A group of young artists who all started their training at a community college demonstrates that painting is alive and well in this stunning exhibit.”

– Anthony Davis

The artistic expressions ranged from oils to acrylics, from wonderous wood and fishing weight fusion to decadently graceful cast iron battlements fused with modern day hallmarks.

Running along the walls were a collective of staggeringly large six-foot oil works by Andrew Yamauchi. The grand scale of these paintings encapsulated a variety of subjects. Many housed life-sized figures sprawled amongst nature’s embrace. One figure lay peacefully embraced in the warm depths of a meadow while another watched the skies above as chaos unfolded. A unifying factor drawing many of his works together were surreal landscapes exuding rich warm emphasis on greenish tones.

“I take inspiration from wherever I can get it,” Yamauchi said. “Ideas for paintings and artwork are extremely finite and need to be harnessed and cultivated. The artist, whether young or mature, needs to be on his or her toes when it comes to things like inspiration because ultimately that dragon is the energy source artists need.”

Nearby, a set of elegant cast iron weaponry loomed, glistening ominously in the warmed gallery light. Created by artist Daniel Stratis, the pieces sat regally atop cushions of crimson. The medieval battlements came in the forms of a morning star, ball and chain and mace but sporting modern day twists. 

Stratis’s mediums of choice were cast and fabricated metal, wood, ceramic, acrylic and interactive electronics, utilizing these mediums to create highly refined objects that both engaged and interacted with the viewer. Stratis attained his bachelor’s degree in fine arts in sculpture from UH Mānoa and later earned a master’s degree in fine arts from the Rinehart School of Sculpture.

The acrylic artistry of Hawai‘i-based artist Erin Marquez beheld a level of skill that lended her work a photo-caliber realism. Her paintings depicted avian life in a variety of activities ranging from hunting and flight to candid power poses. They were accompanied by counterparts done in blazing palettes of surreal colorwork and chalk.

– Anthony Davis

“Since I was young, I’ve been fascinated by birds,” Marquez said. “Growing up in Hawai‘i, I had been unaware of the loss of native Hawaiian birds. The fact that the islands once were a land of birds is awe inspiring. My focus is mainly on these animals, their lives, the land they inhabit and the rich stories that surround them.”

More masterful brush strokes were found in the work of Kana Ogawa. A pair of curious toddlers graced the face of one of her canvases, layered in tones of grey and ghostly white. One child peers far into the distance, while the other looks over her shoulder back to the viewer.

“It is the state of mind of immigrants,” said Ogawa on the inspiration behind her work. “I come from an immigrant family. And living in Hawai‘i is a constant reminder of the blended cultures in a very good way that I feel fortunate about.”

by Anthony Davis, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter