One of the most pleasant surprises to my recent trip to Hawaii was the wealth of art to be found on the island of Maui. My wife and I also went through a couple of good galleries in Honolulu, on Oahu, but Maui is especially rich.
While bigger than Oahu, Maui is thin in population. It has no big cities, and nothing comparable, certainly, to the large energy of Honolulu. But it does have natural beauty. Here is the mountainous road to Hana, where your car must make a sharp turn every few seconds. Here is the volcano Haleakala, with its black earth. Here, along the shore, are magnificent views of the Pacific, which was not so peaceful when I was there.
It is perhaps this rugged natural beauty that makes Maui so hospitable to the arts. For art can be found there even in surprising places. Returning from Haleakala, my wife and I stopped at The Kula Lodge for lunch. There I found a gallery devoted to Curtis Wilson Cost, a fine landscape artist. Cost is skilled in painting such other subjects as Hawaiian dancers, but his landscapes are especially good.
Much of the art scene is concentrated in Lahaina, an old whaling town. Like so many old towns near the salty ocean, Lahaina has the feeling of decay. You wouldn’t expect to find along the waterfront so many art galleries. For in addition to a huge banyan tree, the Pacific and expensive restaurants, art is the main attraction of Lahaina.
Much of the art in these galleries is good. Some of it is world class. In one gallery I found works by the sculptor John Mack, who is known mainly for his base reliefs. Mack, whose main subjects seem to be undressed women, is perhaps a little too close to pop culture, but his insistence on skill is admirable.
Perhaps being so far out on the Pacific, Hawaii is more effected by trends in Asian art than are artists in the mainland States. In recent decades, there has been a noted decline in the skill of western visual artists. When Picasso, at the outset of the twentieth century, abandoned the traditional rules of art, he nonetheless could draw on the level of the Renaissance masters.
This is no longer the case with many contemporary artists. There is no longer the insistence in training on anatomy or perspective. And this has caused the eye to become lazy.
In counterpoint to this decline has been the disciplined work of a number of recent Asian artists. For these artists have produced sketches and paintings that carefully depict the details of their subjects. They respond to the first rule of art, which is that the work must lead us to see clearly.
I suspect that the Philippino artist Eren Erese has been influenced, at least in part, by some of these Asian artists. He is a versatile painter, but his works depicting plantlife are his best. They are vivid in color and amazingly lifelike. They draw us into the lives of these plants.
Our find of Erese’s work was probably the most significant artistic one of our trip. My wife and I found his paintings at Lahaina Printsellers. www.printsellers.com. I don’t know that his work is shown beyond this setting. All of which is a shame. Mr. Erese is a world class artist. His work needs to be seen in Honolulu and Tokyo, in LA and Milan.