The Bird Cage, 2020
131 in. x 42 in.
Acrylic and Graphite on Paper
Inspired by the Persian fable of the simurgh – a mythical bird of enormous strength and wisdom – Bassous comments on the unique qualities of the Mughal Gallery in her artwork. Originally constructed as Doris Duke’s bedroom, this ornate space is ringed by “nets” of carved marble jali (screens), at once both luxurious and fearful, beautiful yet caged. Pushing back against this feeling of captivity is the tale of the simurgh: a collective of birds on a spiritual quest to find the creature realize that it is themselves (si murgh = thirty birds in Persian) who possess the power and strength of the simurgh – and that wisdom and fortitude were inside them all along. Bassous has depicted thirty unique birds in her artwork, creating in the abstracted pulses of the paint both the strength of the individual and the power of the collective.
Reem Bassous received her BA from the Lebanese American University and her MFA from George Washington University. She has been teaching drawing and painting since 2001. Steeped in historical references, Bassous’s work weaves together a seemingly unpredictable surface of heavy acrylic paint and burn marks while the underlying element – the grid – asserts itself to achieve order amongst contemplating religious symbols and blurred recollections. Her work has been exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally and is part of the permanent collection at the Honolulu Museum of Art.
30 in x 38 in (each)
Oil, acrylic, photo transfer on silk, kozo paper on linen
The “Borderlands” series is a reflection on mass migration. Chimera draws upon her family connection with the Levant (the Eastern part of the Mediterranean region) during the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. The left panel references her family’s departure from Lebanon for Damascus, as each family member perished one by one from starvation and the Spanish flu. The work is a collision of time and place, east and west, civilians and military. Among Arab refugees, there is a Guatemalan mother and child as well as those fortunate enough to be on the “other side” by birth, luck, or fortitude. The work is also peopled with today's Syrian refugees, many of whom walk similarly fraught paths, entangled with soldiers of the past and present. Although a century apart, history repeats itself with those moving between war, borders, and pandemics. Chimera paints from the point of view of civilians, particularly women and children who suffer the most when nations draw, demarcate, and enforce boundaries.
Melissa Chimera a conservationist based on Hawai‘i Island. Chimera studied natural resources management at the University of Hawai‘i, a world epicenter for botany, and worked for two decades as a conservation manager. Chimera’s work investigates species extinction, globalization, and human migration. Chimera has exhibited her work across Hawai‘i, the continental U.S., and internationally. Her work resides in the collections of the Arab American National Museum, the Honolulu Museum of Art, and the Hawai'i State Foundation of Culture and the Arts.
For Those That Dream, 2020
3’ ft. x 17” in. x 22” in.
Cast Glass, Steel, Acrylic
This site-specific artwork in the Private Garden explores the relationship between place and perspective. The bench (a common fixture in the art world as a quotidian place of rest) shapes what is viewed: what are we directed to look at and how should we look? Where should one sit (if at all)? In this instance, are we being directed to look at the waterfall or at the museum building? Glass blocks echo the clarity and light-catching properties of the water while also acting as a prism for the colors of the Private Garden; a sole blue block adding a note of both whimsy and depth. The orientation of the work reveals the bubble-like alignment of the glass bricks and their steel casing, juxtaposing the perceived openness of a glass space with its confinement, creating a dialogue about the meaning of public space in a relatively secluded museum, a conversation which takes on added meaning when hosted in a hidden grotto of the Private Garden.
Robert Flowers was raised in Ohio and received his BFA from Ohio State University and MFA in glass from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Flowers’ was surrounded by an artisan family that specialized in glasswork and maintained a fascination with the medium until family events inspired him to pursue a career in glass art. In an age of rapidly advancing technology and growing self-serving culture, Flowers believes the exploration of manual creation and working together cooperatively can be a powerful experience.
The Dervish I and II, 2020
72 in. x 64 in. (canvas)
74 in. x 62 in. (acrylic ink on paper)
Oil panting on canvas; Acrylic ink on paper
A French painter of Serbian ancestry, Kulundzic was struck "by the beauty of Hawaiʻi and that of its inhabitants", which stood in stark contrast to his ancestral country - a place that has been ravaged by war and sectarian violence. After devoting his early artwork to exploring the link between faith and violence, Kulundzic now chooses to search for beauty. These works compare the feelings of eros that he perceives at Shangri La with the feelings he experiences when reading the ghazals (Persian poetry) also present at the museum. Ghazals are tales of love imbued with eroticism and prohibition, odes to unattainable female beauty that only flourishes in nature. These two artworks are inspired by a ghazal entitled “The Dervish”.
Kosta Kulundzic is a Franco-American artist of Serbian descent. Kulundzic was originally trained as an architect and graduated from the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris (Paris National Fine Arts School) and is now based-in Hawai‘i where he teaches drawing and painting. Kulundzic’s work often strikingly transposes biblical stories with contemporary popular culture, while other works may appear initially to the viewer as figure studies displaying his mastery of drawing and painting. Internationally recognized, Kosta has exhibited internationally, in the United States, and locally in Hawai‘i
Da Wretched Of Da Earth, 2020
249 in. x 142 in.
Cyanotype on Cotton Fabric, Photographs from Shangri La Archives, Endemic plants of Hawaiʻi
Ng selected several endemic plants of Hawaiʻi to create large-scale graphic photographic blueprints (cyanotypes) that have been printed on cotton fabric and arranged into an interwoven collective that frames, shapes, and distorts the view. In front of the prints is a selection of the archival photographs, while outside on the Upper Lawn is a medley of native Hawaiian plants. Many of these plants are depicted in the cyanotypes, and their presence at Shangri La - in a coastal environment which is their natural habitat – represents a quiet but insistent reiteration and re-placement of native species. Inspired by his research in Shangri La's archives, Ng’s artwork is a commentary on the assertion of human will over landscape and oceanscape and the reassertion of indigeneity.
Brandon Ng was raised in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, and received his BFA from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and MFA from Arizona State University. His photographic and installation works focus on the complexities of identity and place distilled through historical, social, and political systems. Ng has shown in Hawaiʻi and the continental U.S. As part of his process, Ng researched museum collection archives and worked with local organizations such as Hui Kū Maoli Ola Native Hawai‘i and local phytologists for this exhibition.
Dance of the Tree of Life (After Matisse), 2020
68 in. x 92 in.
Acrylic and Graphite on Paper; Digital Embroidery on Cloth
Created specifically for the Mihrab Hallway, Portner draws on textiles in the museum's collection with "Tree of Life" motifs – a design that both Jewish and Arabic art have in common. While there is a connotation of superficiality when it comes to understanding "decorative" patterns, the cultural and historical meanings contained in these motifs are more than cosmetic. Concerned with this tension between surface and depth, between appearances and meaning, Portner has created a personal tree of life with colors, shapes, and textures that respond directly to what she noticed at Shangri La - the visible surf break, the textiles on walls, and the lustrous mihrab. Vibrant figures dance and tumble among this riot of ornament, exuding exuberance and connecting literally and figuratively with the patterns that give shape and meaning to an affirming composition.
Maya Lea Portner
Maya Lea Portner is an artist and educator in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. She earned a BFA in sculpture from Washington University School of Art in St. Louis and an MFA in fiber arts at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. As part of her artistic research, Portner spent time at the Museum of Natural History ‘La Specola’ in Florence, Italy, where her work has since been exhibited as well as throughout Hawai‘i and the continental U.S.
Shangri La 2020, 2020
63 in. × 35 in.
Linoleum cut and Screen Print on Paper
With its layered motifs, this artwork is a visual interpretation of Hawaii's complex and hybrid cultural connections. Ushio explores the stories behind the archipelago's inlaid histories, passed on over centuries and preserved through craftsmanship. Various symbols represent cross-cultural similarities while hues of blue and golden yellow represent the tilework, the glistening ocean, and the illuminating sunshine at Shangri La. As a more playful memory of 2020, and as a bridge to the future, Ushio depicts a spacecraft named “Crew Dragon” [a.k.a “resilience”,] - its inclusion conveys to later generations the care, labor, and joy that goes into the creation of art at Shangri La, even during a year unlike no other.
Chiho Ushio was raised in Japan and received her BFA and MFA in printmaking from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Ushio’s work is often characterized by its serene and sublime energy that draws inspiration from experiential interactions with nature. Her experiences in Hawai‘i have yielded a holistic view of the universe in that everything interacts with, affects, and resonates with each other: mutualistic relationships between humanity and nature, the invisible and visible, the microscopic and macroscopic.
12 ft. x 44 in. x 28 in.
PVC, cecontie, fiberglass, and spray paint
Walkerʻs sculpture is a study of motion and stillness. The sculpture undulates in a seemingly gravity-defying arc, rising like a wave in a curling crest which gestures to the ocean break visible from multiple angles of the gallery. Yet its surface skin – coated in a pewter-like tone which radiates warmth – belies the frenzied motion of the ocean, and invites the viewer to look more carefully at the work. Colorful lights from the textiles and tiles in the gallery, as well as the garden outside, are gently reflected in spots of color on the surface of the sculpture, changing its depth and illumination as the quality of light in the gallery ebbs and flows throughout the day. As a result, the viewer may see the shape of a wave or a surfboard, or even whale vertebrae or lava flow, or she may see an abstract, voluminous shape balancing delicately and fleetingly.
Tom Walker received his BFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and his MFA at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His interest in technology, metaphysics, and aesthetic philosophy has been a driving force behind his life and work. He continues to find avenues to connect philosophy and art-making. Working in a variety of mediums, Walker’s incorporation of traditional painting processes, industrial materials, tools, and digital technologies blend past, present, and future in visually striking, highly-crafted forms.