Wayne Muromoto
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

A Little Art Show on the Windward Side

Now that the rules concerning the COVID-19 pandemic have become clearer and somewhat more relaxed, it might be a good time to take in an art show, if only to escape the news of the world that smacks you in the face every day with its tribulations. Plus, getting out of the house for some fresh air would be good.

Combine the art-shoe excursion with a day or half-day of other holo-holo activities, and it can round out a wonderful day trip. More on that later.

“The Alphabet, Nighttime, and Cigarette Butts,” by Fae Yamaguchi, Jonathan Hamblin and Doug Doi is a quiet and charming art show in the foyer of the main lobby at the Hawai‘i  Loa campus of Hawai‘i Pacific University, running until March 12, 2021. Coming from Honolulu, you can take either the Pali or Likelike Highway to get to HPU Windward, as it is located in between the two, across from Pali Golf Course on Kamehameha Highway. I suggest the Pali for a slightly more scenic drive; stop by the lookouts for a grand, sweeping view of windward O‘ahu.

The commute to the art show is very pleasant. Once you pull into the parking lot, you are surrounded by the wide, sweeping HPU grounds and the lush, jungle-like foliage of rain-drenched Käne‘ohe. You have the breathless view of the Ko‘olau mountain range, frequently draped in heavy rain clouds. And free parking. I love free parking.

When you enter the main building’s foyer, the walls are covered by Yamaguchi and Hamblin’s idiosyncratic paintings which surround Doi’s ceramic and multi-media sculptures set on pedestals. The three are longtime fixtures in the local-art scene, with works both familiar and experimental. Fae Yamaguchi’s painting style is known for its humor and mystery. This time she has chosen a black bear as a symbolic image. The bear is shown standing on its hind legs, staring at the viewer, in various locations in the middle of the night. The canvases are dark, with bursts of color here and there, such as in the glitter of the bear’s sad eyes, and next to him, the hot glow of a neon sign, the glare coming out of a vending machine, and so on.

“Catalogued Memory #1008” by Fae Yamaguchi. (Photo by Robert Mace)

Jon Hamblin continues his painting explorations of abstracted human shapes, sort of like a combination of the street artist Keith Haring with the elongated, flame-like forms of an El Greco. There are texts in English and obscure languages covering many of the paintings, that make them feel like a combination of imagery and poetry, stream-of-consciousness word associations and prayer.

And the mercurial Doug Doi has quieted down a bit, admitting to a lot of time thinking about things while under the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. He’s made some simple, texturized vessels for plants and a series of “New” god icons, vertical assemblies of what appear to be stone, concrete and/or ceramic pieces piled on each in a kind of thin, kokeshi-doll like body, topped by abstract “heads” that refer to old folk spirits and deities, such as the kitsune (the Japanese magical fox). What do they mean for the viewer? Your theory is as good as mine.

“Primer III” by Jonathan Hamblin. (Photo by Jonathan Hamblin)

For me, the combination of the trio’s works creates a kind of quiet, sublime beauty, very much in keeping with the quietness and contemplative mood an artist would get, I think, as he or she works in semi-isolation under the pandemic lockdown. Hence the serenity of Doi’s folk-religion god faces, looking out at the gallery and the plague-smitten world. Or Yamaguchi’s quiet accusation of the bear, a part of the natural world, standing in the dark, looking sadly at the viewer amid the dregs of our civilizations and in the darkness of night. Or Hamblin’s bold, spirited colors (even using silver paint to make one painting sparkle with reflected, prismatic light), and the long, flaming bodies, as if full of positive spirit. But what you see is partly what you yourself bring to the show, it’s not just what the artist intends.

So with a little bit of culture under your belt, why not make the trip over the mountains worth your while? After the free art show, you could go down to Kailua and enjoy its world-class beach park, now somewhat uncrowded without the huge onslaught of tourists. And enjoy lunch at the town’s many, many eateries. I don’t frequent Kalapawai Market as much as I would like to, but it serves a great variety of sandwiches, wraps and burgers for lunch. More down the ways is a California Pizza Kitchen outlet, and our most recent discovery, Goen by Roy Yamaguchi. My wife and I first went there to test it out and loved it so much we went back the next weekend. It has a variety of fusion food. My favorites were the green tea soba topped with a perfectly grilled salmon and the sashimi combo. The latter was really “brok’ da mouth.” Reservations are recommended.

Or, if you go mauka from HPU, you can head towards the Valley of the Temples and its replica Byodo-In Temple, then on to Kualoa Beach and/or Kahana Bay, two very different and gorgeous beaches. In Käne‘ohe, you can pick up a lunch from Masa and Joyce’s (second only, in my opinion, to Fukuya, for real “local style” okazu entrees), or stop for a sit-down lunch on ancient benches at the Waiahole Poi Factory (and pick up a fresh bag of poi). Or … treat yourself to KJ’s fried chicken in the heart of Käne‘ohe, either to eat fresh or to take home. A friend who used to live in the American South told me that KJ’s Local Grindz comes as close to the best southern fried chicken he’s ever tasted. KJ’s was first recommended to me by the former Gov. John Waihe‘e — once known as a notorious plate-lunch addict. As he talked excitedly about its food, his wife Lynne, sitting at the same banquet table, scolded me, “Don’t encourage him!!! He’s supposed to be on a diet!”

So, while the art show alone may not entice you, combined with other east-side sights and foods, it can be combined to make both a contemplative and an enjoyable day out and about, of course while still taking the necessary COVID-19 precautions.

“A Newbie In A Time of Old Gods: Kitsune Jizo” by Doug Doi. (Photo by Robert Mace)

“The Alphabet, Nighttime, and Cigarette Butts” art exhibit by Fae Yamaguchi, Doug Doi and Jonathan Hamblin, is at Hawai‘i Pacific University, Windward Hawai’i Loa Campus (45-045 Kamehameha Hwy.), until March 12. Admission is free. Gallery hours: Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Wayne Muromoto is a former Hawai‘i Herald staff writer. The Waialua High School and Cornell University alumnus teaches digital art and digital photography at Leeward Community College. Wayne also continues to pursue peace through a bowl of tea as a practitioner of Urasenke tea ceremony.


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