Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cultural Capital and the Honolulu Academy of Art

The Honolulu Academy of Art

The Honolulu Academy of Art... or rather, I think it should be called the Honolulu You're-Not-Welcome-Unless-You're-A-Wealthy-Old-Woman-Who-Thinks-She-Can-Buy-Culture Academy of Art. When I first moved to Honolulu a few years back, I actually liked going to the museum. The courtyards are beautiful. They have a nice Asia collection, and they even had a John Singer Sargeant.. quite gorgeous and reminiscent of my time in Boston. So, I joined as a member. Big mistake. I attended one of their "functions"... was just sitting at one of the tables, enjoying a quiet afternoon, when one of the women came up to me and said, "This is for members only. My stuttering reply (so shocked... why would they assume...?) was, I AM a member. She looks me up and down... oh, so, sorry. What a... Oh, I see.. I'm not dressed to the nines... You see, these women proclaim to support the arts yet fail to see that artists generally don't walk around town dripping with diamonds. I suppose, though, that these patrons of the arts never give it a second thought. As a friend of mine once said to me, they are a necessary evil. True, they possess no creativity, cannot produce culture, but they can buy it and in so doing, they support the arts.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Going Digital...

So very reluctantly, I am going digital. It's not that I disagree totally with technology. In fact, I think it's great. And I'm the techie of the house. I can set up anything and everything around here. But, for art... I just don't know. I just don't get that thrill from doing digital art. With charcoal and pencil and paint it is so... sensual. Well, I found an old copy of Photoshop Elements lying around. It must be about three years old (I must have bought it back then thinking I would try my hand at digital stuff). Lots of dust on it... but anyway, I wanted to create a t-shirt for the RedBubble site. So, I pulled up one of my charcoal drawings. I thought skeletons would be the way to go since Halloween is coming up. Copied it onto Photoshop and bumbled my way around. After about two hours, I finally found the eraser function at the top of the screen... I think I must be digitally-challenged. After all is said and done, I think I did a decent job. **Pat myself on the back** And I just placed an order for one that I'm going to wear. I just want to see what it looks like.

Dark Tales

Vilhelm Pedersen, The Little Mermaid

I've been reading fairy tales again... I know, who reads that but little children? But, no, these are not the mouse-ears version, the happily ever after tales with the princess riding off into the sunset with the prince (who, incidentally never really talks in the movies). The original Andersen stories are dark and terrible with lots of mutilation and death. Cinderella's stepsister, for instance, hacks off her toes to try to fit into the glass slipper. Or take the Little Mermaid. In Andersen, she falls in love with the Prince, but the Prince marries another so on their wedding night, the little mermaid is supposed to kill the prince so that she can return to her mermaid life. But... she doesn't. She instead commits suicide by throwing herself into the water and is transformed into spirit. Yet, how many of us know THIS story? Do we all really need the happy ending? Is Andersen's telling just too dark? ARE we happier buying into the Disneyfied version of the world?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Heaven (haiku)

To tenderly hold
Hands withdrawn in modesty
Such would be heaven.

Monet or Rembrandt?

Claude Monet, Woman with a Parasol

Is she a Monet or a Rembrandt? I beg your pardon???? I can't quite remember the context of this conversation...except that I was simply trying to introduce a female friend of mine to my friend Joe. And this was Joe's question. Well, a painting by Monet when viewed from afar is quite stunning, but up close is a jumble, quite a mess. A Rembrandt is both beautiful up close and from far away. So... WAS she a Monet? Or WAS she a Rembrandt? Well, since I never did end up introducing her to my friend, I suppose she must have been a Monet.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kindred (haiku)

The world falls away
Time unnoticed, forgotten
Spent in whispered love.

Friendship haiku

Laughing together
Stories of our silly past
Treasured within us.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Seduction by E. Cheung

I just realized that I've lost all sense of modesty. I was uploading some nudes onto the RedBubble site and there is a check box for indicating if the image is safe for workplace viewing. I have yet to check the box... many of my drawings and paintings are nudes, but I don't think they are in any way "inappropriate." I must admit, though, that I've never really worked in an office environment and so don't really know what it is like. I really have no clue what it is that people do in offices. I imagine they do things on the computer, shuffle papers around? Answer phones? E-mail? Have meetings? I worked in a lab for my first real job. There was no dress code, no punching in, punching out.. just did the work whenever it was convenient for me... sometimes came in after hours. Come to think of it, if I got an office job tomorrow, I would have nothing to wear... maybe I would go in as an artistic nude.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

H G Wells

Ahhh... H G Wells. Now, there was a great person. If you have ever read Utopia or War of the Worlds, well, what more is there to say? He wrote about things that were inconceivable in his time. The machines, the cataloging of people in order to keep track of people in Utopia. And, of course the creatures from Mars... and how they died on Earth even with all their technology. They died from disease because they had no immunities to the diseases on Earth... much like Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs, and Steel. But all the knowledge that we have today did not exist in his time. He was a genius, a futurist.

H.G. Wells: The Google Logo Mystery Is Finally Solved

H.G. Wells: The Google Logo Mystery Is Finally Solved

Posted using ShareThis

Art and Soul

I am trying to detach myself from my art... no wait, what I mean is I'm trying to not get so attached to my work. I have the most horrible time letting go of my paintings. The day after I sell it, I want to refund the money and tell them it was all a mistake. The last time I was in a funk for about a month, couldn't sleep at night, sometimes I would cry thinking about how I would never see it again. I feel pretty stupid even saying that, but I did. And, I just don't like the idea of selling work as giclee. Then there would be endless, mass-produced, soul-less pieces floating around out there. It just seems wrong. I went into a gallery once to inquire about a particular painting. The saleswoman told me that the painting was an "original giclee." Isn't that a contradiction? She explained how oil paints were used in the process, that it was an oil on canvas... etc. etc. etc... but the truth of the matter is that giclees are simply copies printed onto canvas and then in some cases "touched up" in a few places by the artist (such as a daub of paint on the cloud), signed, and then sold for an obscene amount of money. The unknowing buyer who walks into the gallery thinks they are being sold an original and that some day it will be worth double what he paid. The reality is that it will be worth nothing because it came from nothing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


For a few months now I've been in a slump... Sketches that lead to
nothing, lots and lots of nothing. Lots and lots... Of nothing.
So... Maybe just need to let go of realism. To let go of trying to
make everything into something final and just let it be. Maybe this
is the pencil sketching era... Oil painting is so involved - the
oil, turpentine, cleaning -not to mention the cost. I started a
landscape last week, gorgeous rolling hills of yellow flowers in
some picturesque village... And it was so utterly uninspired that I
painted it out and threw a garbage truck onto it, literally...
Painted a garbage truck over the whole darn thing....Ick.. Such a
total waste. At least with sketches you don't have to feel so bad
about trashing it. Also thinking about putting a knife to work
that's been sitting around collecting dust. Clears the mind I think.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Visit to Byodoin

Buddha at Byodoin in Kaneohe, Hawaii

Yesterday I drove to Byōdōin to take a break from all the madness. It lies in the Valley of the Temples in Kaneohe. There were few people around so it was peaceful and contemplative. The temple itself is a replica of the one in Uji-shi, Japan. The Amida Buddha that sits inside the main hall is the work of sculptor Masuzo Inui, a descendant from a long line of carvers of iconic Buddhist statues. Covered in gold leaf with exquisite details on the mandorla, the statue is a tribute to the Buddha and to the ability of humankind to manipulate the physical world around them. Looking at the statue, you would be hard pressed to find who the artist was... in fact, it was from a xeroxed information sheet that I learned who the artist was... As with much of Buddhist art, the work is mostly anonymous; this is in stark contrast to modern art where the artist sometimes is more celebrated than the actual work (hence we have people who paint whales on the sides of buildings and then sell a giclee for thousands of dollars...). People seem to want to know the background of the artist, maybe buy into some romantic notion of a lone artist starving somewhere on the streets to be "discovered" and made famous overnight. It is as if the art buyer does not really trust his own tastes but needs some story to tell their friends. Maybe hanging up a piece of art is too revealing of a statement whereas buying a familiar image is safe... because then people can all be different by being the same.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Detail from a page of the Voynich MS

I have been studying the Voynich manuscript for some months now. There is a theory out there that perhaps this manuscript was the work of a mentally deranged individual. While the manuscript is in and of itself quite intriguing it is also interesting to find that so many people
would devote so much to scrutinizing it in the hopes of solving this most mysterious work. Human nature... We need to know the "why.". Why would someone expend so much creative energy to produce something so elusive and seemingly nonsensical? If indeed this were the product of an insane mind, then would not all of us possess such impulses but that we simply have control of our selves? Do we generally lock away such obsessive impulses so that we can exist in the normal world? What exactly drives creativity? Is it simply an unchecked passion artists allow to surface? Part of the manuscript's appeal is our inability to decipher it. I think it would lose much of its allure if suddenly we could read it. Such is the draw of art... The expression of the artist's psyche in material form to be endlessly interpreted, just slightly out of reach.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Art and Death

An artist friend of mine just suffered a massive stroke last week while visiting his family in New York. It brought to mind something that happened about ten years ago when I used to live in Boston. I was part of a calligraphy group that met once a week. I remember one day, one of the women told the group that they should go to a sale held by this particular artist... because the woman was dying... *ahem.*
So.... what to make of that. Of course we all know that the value of a piece of art is not in the materials. Yet, I find it disquieting that people could be so materialist, that they might simply look at art as an investment... as in a stock or a piece of real estate, or god forbid just something to go with the horrible yellow couch in the living room. I suppose I should not be so naive. People often are driven by greed (witness the current fight over universal health care). And part of the allure of the arts is that we believe that we might not have to deal with money. Yet, to be taken seriously as an artist, we must also possess a little bit of business sense. However, if we look beyond that rather callous remark about the dying artist, we could look at it in a more gentle light; that the value of a work of art increases in value simply because nothing more from this artist will ever be produced again. One might venture to say that it is the very individuality of a work that makes it valuable.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Robert Louis Stevenson

Hau Tree Lanai
I am re-reading Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. It has always been one of my favorite books... I think I first read it when I was 13 years old during summer break. Back then it was just a swashbuckling, fast read. But what struck me even back then were his descriptions of the land, of the fog, of the sand on the beach, and all that detail about the schooner. Of course, I had no inkling of anything of that sort... I lived in a little suburb in Los Angeles. And even though the ocean was but 20 miles away, it may as well have been 200 miles away. A landlubber to this day... ironic when I think of it, now that I live in Hawaii... and just today sat within a stone's throw from where Stevenson sat under the hau tree, listening to the sound of the ocean beating upon the sand. Maybe it was in such a place where stories wedge themselves in a writer's head to be born later. The vivid descriptions of the landing, the sea, the biscuits could only have come from having lived it. Is that not art? To take something real, perhaps even mundane, and to transform it into something eternal? One could argue that the ocean, the beaches, the sand... all those things inspire... yes, but only one of great imagination could take something we take for granted everyday and find something unique about it. The hau tree where he used to sit is now a place for enjoying a leisurely breakfast... go see it... Hau Tree Lanai off of Waikiki.