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Honolulu Museum of Art Blog
Honolulu Museum of Art Blog
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Now that your costume and fake cobwebs are back in storage and your fridge is full of leftover turkey and stuffing, guess what? Holiday shopping season is officially upon us! Assuming, of course, that you survived Black Friday, it’s time to start checking off the rest of your “nice” list. Lucky for you, we have an assortment of new items in the Museum Shop to suit everyone in your life.

HoMA holiday art book bundle
Since 2014, the museum has produced three great exhibition catalogs as well as a “greatest hits” of the collection. The Museum Shop has created a special discounted set of these made-in-Hawai‘i books. For the special holiday price of $89 (normally $120.00) you can give your favorite art lover ALL THE ART—Abstract Expressionism: Looking East from the Far West, Art Deco Hawai‘i, Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: The Hawai“i Pictures and Collection Highlights, wrapped in our Abstract Expressionism tote (pictured above).

Textile jewelry
Know a lady who likes to make a statement? Michal Tarhalevv applies traditional handweaving techniques to industrial materials to create these intricate, eye-catching pieces (necklace $315, earrings $120.00).

Fuzzy felt friends
For the pet-lover or new parent whose tree is strictly glass-free, Wendy Ikeda of Hi-Fiber Felt has created these one-of-a-kind ornaments ($30) and gnomes ($50-$75). Or if you’re committed to making your own gifts this year, Wendy will teach you how to make your own felt creations in her Holiday Felting Workshop at Spalding House Dec 10.

Artsy armored wallet
The perfect stocking stuffer for frequent travelers! Protect credit cards from RFID scanner identity theft with this armored wallet ($12.95) that comes with a choice of  iconic van Gogh paintings on the lid. Make a good impression.

Carved and kawaii
No one can resist these handmade wood animals ($19.95) from Japanese design outfit T-Lab, which aims to put the human touch back into gift giving. These make perfect playmates as well as holiday décor. From T-Lab’s line of Polepole Animals. “Polepole” is Swahili for “slowly, slowly,” in reference to the handcrafted care that goes into making these creatures. 

Questions? Call the Museum Shop at 532-8703.


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Having spent the last ten years as the museum’s curator of Asian art, Shawn Eichman’s knowledge of the Asian collection is intimate and encyclopedic. When asked to share his favorite museum artwork, how could he pick just one?

Eichman, who specializes in East Asian culture—he is fluent in Japanese and Mandarin and holds degrees in Chinese studies and East Asian Philosophy, as well as a PhD in Chinese literature—recently returned from a two-month trip to China. When he asked to meet me in the Pan-Asian Buddhism Gallery and headed to a mural fragment against the north wall near the door, it was clear the journey inspired his “staff pick.” The work is called Bodhisattva. Dating back to China’s Tang dynasty, circa 8th century, the fragment depicts a round-cheeked bodhisattva, or someone who could follow in Buddha’s footsteps to enlightenment but chooses to remain earthbound to help others find salvation, in earthy burnt sienna and turquoise.

“I was just at the place where this came from about three weeks ago,” says Eichman. “It comes from Bezeklik, which is a famous Buddhist cave site along the Silk Road. It’s right outside of Turpan, once a major city. As an example of Silk Road art, one of the things I find really appealing about it is that it brings together a number of different cultures, and that’s what we do here at the museum—we bring together art and influences from different cultures into one place. This is an example of where Chinese and Indian and Persian and Central Asian culture all came together for one moment and created this unique culture.”

Bodhisattva joined the museum’s permanent collection in 1951. It was purchased from a relative of Albert von Le Coq, a famous German archaeologist and explorer who led several expeditions to Central Asia and China in the early 1900s to collect artifacts for the Ethnological Museum in Berlin.

“In Bezeklik, they were able to remove literally entire caves worth of murals,” explains Eichman. “Not only that but they had to get them back to Germany. And, of course, this was before modern transportation so they packed them up in crates using straw and then transported everything on camels, yaks, and mules across the Taklamakan Desert, over the Khyber Pass—which is one of the most dangerous passes in the world—and then to India where they were finally able to get them on trains and into Germany.”

Eichman cites Le Coq’s book Buried Treasures of Chinese Turkestan as a fantastic travel account of the archeologist’s expedition—a must-read if you’re interested in learning the provenance of our Bodhisattva. “For example,” says Eichman, “once when they were staying in the caves in Bezeklik, they woke up in the middle of the night to this incredible cacophony of noise. They stepped out of the caves and looked down into the valley below and saw thousands of wolves, all howling at the moon. It gives you this incredible sense of the kind of adventure they were on.”

The Ethnological Museum had built 13 additional rooms for the new Turpan Collection, and the murals retrieved on Le Coq’s expeditions filled all of them. Unfortunately, “The story of how they made their way all the way to Europe has a very sad ending,” says Eichman. Many of them were destroyed in 1945 when Allied bombs destroyed the museum’s northwest wing. Today most of those works exist only in black and white photographs. We are fortunate to have a fragment of the story right here in Honolulu.

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Great news! This year, you don’t have to wake up before dawn and battle the Black Friday crowds to find the best holiday deals. Why? Because the Honolulu Printmakers Print & Book Fair starts Friday at 5pm on the second floor of the Honolulu Museum of Art School and continues all day Saturday! The annual sale will feature more than 45 vendor tables representing more than 60 artists and makers. Count on finding limited-edition prints, screenprinted T-shirts, tote bags, and other soft goods, hand-bound artists’ books and quirky printed objets d’art—even bargain-priced misprints—from a diverse roster of emerging and established artists. Why suffer through an impersonal shopping experience at a big-box store when you can chat with and buy direct from local print artists?

As part of the fair, the Honolulu Printmakers have flown in New Hampshire-based artist and publisher Josh Dannin of Directangle Press for a mini-residency.  As a featured fair vendor, Josh will launch the fourth issue of his printmaking zine, Power Washer, at the fair where his unique risograph collages and prints will also be available for purchase.


Originally from Philadelphia, Josh first fell in love with printing as an undergraduate student at  Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. “I took a printmaking class and immediately saw it as an opportunity to continue working with traditional processes and avoid staring at computers,” Josh says. “I started carving blocks nonstop and, as soon as I discovered letterpress, began collecting and restoring presses. I love the process of maintaining equipment, carving or locking up a composition, and pulling prints just as much as seeing the finished product.”

By 2014, Josh had accumulated enough equipment to launch Directangle Press, operating out of his studio at Ohio University while completing his MFA in printmaking. “I’ve since had the privilege of collaborating with a bunch of great artists on exciting letterpress and risograph print and book projects, and continue to produce my own work,” he gushes.


As part of his residency, Josh also led a workshop in improvisational risography at the Art School last week that explored ways of incorporating chance and play into the risograph printing process. “My process has become much more improvisational over the years,” Josh explains. “While certain parts are still quite measured, I try to make calls on the fly as much as possible. I often have a small printer’s saw setup right next to my proofing press to quickly chop up blocks as I’m building a composition, and this approach has influenced my more recent risograph collages. If I can’t make a formal decision quickly, I try to just chop something up and move on.” In the same vein as his practice, Josh’s workshop breaks the cycle of design-to-print, exploring alternative methods, and encouraging creative “misuse” of the riso as an open-ended tool for image building.

The Print & Book Fair kicks off on Nov 24 at 5pm with Friday Night Prints—an opening reception featuring snacks from Watanabe Bakery, rare grooves from local crate diggers Aloha Got Soul and Maximum Joy Collective, live printmaking demos, and exclusive Black Friday merchandise. That same night, you can also browse the museum?s Art School Holiday Sale until 9pm. Both the Art & Book Fair and the Holiday Sale will continue on Saturday from 10am-6pm. 

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Tutuvi’s clothing featuring geometric motifs based on the natural environment and cultures of Polynesia are some of the most recognizable in the islands. Now, Colleen Kimura of Tutuvi has created a limited-edition aloha shirt just for the museum. Her screenprinted design is inspired by the museum’s art and architecture. A perfect gift for the art-loving man in your life.  $88


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This Nov. 26 marks the first Museum Store Sunday, the Museum Store Association’s antidote to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The Honolulu Museum of Art Shops—at its main location on Beretania Street and at Spalding House in Makiki Heights—are two of almost 500 museum stores across the country (in every state and D.C!) participating. Shoppers will get 10 percent off at the register and shoppers who are museum members will get an additional 10 percent off on top of that.

The day is about more than generating sales—its goal is to educate the public about the role museum stores play in funding the institutions that house them. Museum retail operations are not just gift shops.

That’s why the day’s motto is “Be a Patron”—spending money in a museum shop supports the museum and its mission. “Any money earned in museum stores goes directly back to support the educational programs, the exhibitions, and collection maintenance,” says Stuart Hata, chair of the Museum Store Association’s marketing and communications committee and director of retail operations for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (who also happens to be from Manoa Valley and makes sure to stop at our shop every time he comes home to visit).  “We realize that people might not know what a museum store is. We need to answer that basic question.”

So skip the big-box madness and pick up some thoughtful, well-designed, and well-crafted gifts at the museum instead. Every time you buy even a notecard, your are helping a student go on a free school tour, helping a curator organize a future exhibition, or helping to conserve a painting.

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One of the hits of the inaugural Honolulu Biennial was Lynne Yamamoto’s quiet, contemplative work Borrowed Time. It sat, familiar and inviting, on a lawn near Sean Connelly’s bigger, muscular Thatch Assembly with Rocks (2060s) at Foster Botanical Garden. The site-specific work made me think about my nisei grandparents, my larger family, about Honolulu and how what seemed permanent to me as a child is actually terrifyingly fleeting, and how even our identities change. For people of a certain age and background born in Hawai‘i, Yamamoto’s echo of a plantation bungalow is so loaded with meaning. It is like a snapshot in an old family album.

Fashioned from materials from ReUse Hawaii, the work was originally destined to be dismantled when the Biennial closed. The museum, which had previously worked with Lynne on her installation House for Listening to Rain, happily offered to be its second home.

Now you can experience Borrowed Time as part of a small village of art in the Spalding House exhibition The World Reflected, on view through October 2018. It is a good neighbor to George Segal’s Japanese Couple (pictured above) along with Jennifer Bartlett’s House with Open Door, and Nam Jun Paik’s one-seat schoolhouse WareZ Academy.

Born and raised in Hawai‘i, Yamamoto is based in Northampton, Mass., and is the Jessie Wells Post Professor of Art at Smith College. But it is clear that her hometown still lays claim to her heart.

Lynne Yamamoto with her work

Lynne Yamamoto with her work “Borrowed Time” at Foster Garden in March 2017, as part of the Honolulu Biennial.

Here is what she has to say about Borrowed Time:

It is a structure that embodies the memory of both the bungalow and the plantation styles of vernacular architecture. The bungalow style (front) was associated with the lunas’/middle management homes, and the plantation style (back) was associated with workers’ homes.  Thus the structure as a whole refers to the hierarchy of power and status on the plantations. The front is largely white, and the back is largely unpainted.

Since characteristics of both became woven through homes built in the 1920s to 1940s—a period of time that includes 1930, the year Mary Mikahala Robinson Foster deeded the land that became Foster Garden, to the city of Honolulu—I also wanted to convey a sense of the complicated and compelling ways in which historic referents become intertwined with client/carpenter choices. And we see that in the older middle/working neighborhoods right around Foster Garden, as well as in lower Punchbowl, Ka’imuki and Palolo, for example.

I focused on the porch part of the house, because what differentiates historic house construction in Hawai’i from similar structures elsewhere in the U.S., is an emphasis on openness, the porosity of interior and exterior. I tried to have this in the structure. It also seemed appropriate, since it was originally sited in Foster Garden. I wanted it to face Nu’uanu Valley, so that when the tradewinds (out of the Northeast) are blowing, the breeze would flow right through the structure.

The back of 'Borrowed Time'

The back of ‘Borrowed Time,’ representing workers’ homes.


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In August, the museum launched its membership contest for Abstract Expressionism: Looking East from the Far West. People who joined, renewed or purchased a gift membership by Sept. 4 were automatically entered to win two round-trip tickets on Alaska Airlines, a stay at the Palace Hotel, and get a tour of Abstract Expressionist works at SFMOMA—and, of course, two tickets to see our exhibition first.

The museum’s annual giving coordinator Hilary Sholin selected the winner by random drawing and it is—drumroll, please—Lisa Miyahara! When Hilary e-mailed Lisa to confirm her acceptance of the prize, Lisa thought it was too good to be true and wondered if the message was a scam. “I was ready to delete it,” she said. She had renewed her membership in August simply because she wanted to keep supporting the museum, and was unaware of the possible prize she could win. But after a little googling, she realized Hilary was legit and called.

A resident of Punchbowl, Lisa works for Proctor & Gamble as an account executive for the Hawai‘i market and lives in walking distance of the museum. “I love art. Whenever I’m in another city I always make time to see art. I was just in Los Angeles and went to the Getty. I’m looking forward to seeing Abstract Expressionism one on one with the curator here, then getting a tour of similar art at SFMOMA.”

Congratulations Lisa! And a big mahalo to Alaska Airlines, the Palace Hotel and SFMOMA for their generous partnerships in this exciting package.

If you’d like to make the museum a part of your life, become a member like Lisa. We have membership levels to fit different budgets and interests.

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Get more out of Abstract Expressionism: Looking East from the Far West with the accompanying audio tour available on the HoMA app. Curator Theresa Papanikolas wrote fascinating stories about seven pieces in the show. For example, about Isamu Noguchi’s Victim, she describes the artist’s experience as an activist during World War II, when he voluntarily entered a War Relocation Center in a bid to improve conditions for his fellow Japanese-American residents. Ultimately, Noguchi’s plan did not work out quite as he had hoped.

If you already have the app on your phone, you’ll find the audio tour in the drop-down menu as “Audio Tour.”
If you haven’t yet downloaded our app, here’s all the information you need to get and use it

Once you’re in the audio tour section of the app press the play icon for the corresponding piece. As you walk into the exhibition space, the order of artworks with corresponding tracks is arranged clockwise around the gallery—look for the headphones icon on the title cards. 

Abstract Expressionism: Looking East from the Far West is on view through Jan 21, 2018.


14 days ago |
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Massimo Bottura (pictured above) is chef and owner of one of the best restaurants in the world. While he may directly feed just a few lucky people a night who have waited months for a reservation at Osteria Francescana (something that is spoofed in the latest season of the Netflix series Master of None), his passion project is feeding the world. He founded the nonprofit Food for Soul to fight food waste and promote “social inclusion and individual well-being.”

He is one of four chefs highlighted in the film Wasted! The Story of Food Waste as examples of people working to find a solution to a problem that is criminal when there are people going hungry around the world. (The others are Blue Hill’s Dan Barber, Mario Batali and Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese, and Anthony Bourdain is the documentary’s narrator as well as executive producer.) “We don’t need to produce more,” says Bottura. “We need to act different.”

Ninety percent of all wasted food ends up in landfills, and that rotting food releases methane gas that helps climate change along. And get this—in the U.S., 10 million tons of produce doesn’t even get harvested!

To help raise awareness of the issue, we screen Wasted! Nov. 19 to 22, with partner Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation and supporting sponsor Ulupono Initiative.

“Across the country, across the world, awareness is growing on the massive scale of food waste and the far-reaching environmental, financial, and social impacts,” says Kokua Foundation waste reduction coordinator Jennifer Milholen. “More than 40 percent of food grown in the U.S. is wasted, amounting to an estimated $156 billion annual loss.”

Why is this issue important for us in Hawai‘i? “As Hawai‘i continues to work toward self-sufficiency and food sovereignty, addressing food waste across the food supply chain is a critical step forward,” says Milholen. “The film Wasted! is a wonderful opportunity for us to explore the scope of the food waste epidemic, while engaging and working as a community toward solutions for Hawai‘i.”

Following the first screening, at 4pm on Sunday, Nov. 19, is a discussion with an informed panel on the subject of food waste. We’re excited to welcome chef Ed Kenney, Aloha Harvest executive director Ku‘ulei Williams, Dept. of Environmental Services’ assistant chief of refuse Mike O’Keefe, and farmer Shin Ho of Ho Farms. Kokua Foundation?s Milholen will moderate the conversation.

Not convinced you should see it? Read the San Francisco Chronicle review.


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Have you noticed anything different about the Art School’s sketch garden lately? In September, we gave the fountain—a marble basin topped by an arch framing a concrete formation—a new look. First we repaired the water pump, then replaced the centerpiece with a sculpture by Art School finance coordinator—and artist—Kamran Samimi. Now water splashes down seven slices of stacked stone.

“Vince and I started talking about the fountain almost a year ago,” Kamran explains. “I had the stone cut and ready for another project but that project fell through. It just so happened that it was the perfect size and kind of worked perfectly.”


Kamran, who joined the museum staff in 2016, has been making and showing art professionally since 2008. His stone sculptures, like his 2D work, are geometric abstractions of organic forms, created by layering and repetition. His materials and process are largely inspired by the landscapes of his hometown, Laupahoehoe, in the foothills of Mauna Kea on Hawai‘i Island.

“This is the first fountain that I’ve made,” says Kamran. “I love the combination of these two seemingly opposing substances, but in reality they’re not in opposition—it’s our planet, water and earth. I think it’s a really beautiful yin yang kind of interplay between them. My favorite thing about this piece is seeing it change over time, there’s already moss growing on it! Even in the last few weeks it’s been absorbing that water and it’s getting this patina and this age and it’s eroding. The browns are a little bit more orange, the grays are a little greener. That’s exciting to me.”

The marble fountain prior to its removal from the Fong building in 1989.

The marble fountain at the Fong Inn Building in 1989.

Though Kamran normally works with Hawaiian lava rock, the stone for his stacked sculpture is basalt from a quarry in China—which is serendipitous because the fountain’s existing arch and basin are also of Chinese origin. According to museum archivist Dawn Sueoka, the fountain’s basin was fabricated in 1927 in Beijing according Honolulu importer Henry Inn who installed it in a garden behind the Fong Inn Building, his father’s emporium of Chinese art and collectibles in Waikiki. Henry Inn donated it to the museum in 1989. “He was told it dated to the Ming Dynasty and originally came from the home of a Manchu prince,” says Sueoka, “but museum curators could not confirm or deny that attribution.” The exact age of the marble arch is still unknown.

This mini-renovation of the sketch garden is part of an ongoing improvement plan envisioned by Art School director Vince Hazen. “I thought that Kamran’s stacked stones would really rhyme with the pagoda, which is also stacked stone,” he says. This visual symmetry inspired Kamran to name his stone sculpture Pagoda. “The next process for him was to turn them into a fountain,” says Vince. “Like all art projects, as you think about its new function, that changes the design too. When he drilled the holes in the middle of each slab, that’s also when he decided there should be a spacer in between them too. I love that, how the water bridges the gaps between the stones. It creates more sound and a more visually dynamic piece.”


Prior to the installation of Kamran’s sculpture, the sketch garden also received a new set of stone benches, which, coincidentally complement the fountain in more ways than one. “When we looked into those benches, it turns out they were sold by the same company that Kamran was working with to get his stones so it also matches that,” says Vince. “There’s this visual rhyme with all these things.”

While he has no concrete plans to build more fountains in the future, Kamran says this project has shown him new possibilities for his stone shapes. “It was really fun working at this scale,” he says. “I would like to continue expanding into larger, human-scale or monumental-scale pieces.”

You can see new work by Kamran at the Hawai‘i State Art Museum gallery shop on Jan. 5, and on his  website and on Instagram. Want to see him in person? He is a presenter at PechaKucha Night Honolulu #32: Abstract at the Art School on Dec. 1.


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