Art Galleries = Shopping Fun

Dec 18, 2018

Tyler Warren. An example of the Surf Art genre, a specialty at Polu Gallery in Hale'iwa, where you can find surf and ocean related art and gifts, including fins in candy colors.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Now that everyone can order anything they want online, getting that special gift for those few meaningful people can actually be more fun.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports there are surprising options you’ll enjoy perusing in O‘ahu’s art galleries, including in Kailua and Hale‘iwa.

Painter Ruth Sorensen grew up in a small town in Alaska, largely with Alaskan natives. She moved to Hawai'i in 2011, and opened the Kailua Gallery in April 2018. At the makai end of the Ku'ulai Road grouping of shops, Kailua Gallery is a working studio as well. Sorensen's paintings appear to explore the forms and colors of nature.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Sometimes there are situations in parking lots that make you want to turn and run.  You, knowing that after you do park, there will be crowds and you will have to stand in line to pay money.  None of that happened on my recent trip to Kailua.  Nice stop at Kailua General Store, then voila! On the main drag, Kū’ulei Road, the new Kailua Gallery owned and operated by Ruth Sorensen.

"I don’t have much experience being a director on this level, but I have a huge amount of community support and excitement around this show and everything we’re doing."

The 2018 Group Exhibition at Kailua Gallery features work from 34 emerging and established artists through December 20, 2018.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Painter, now gallery owner, Ruth Sorensen grew up in Alaska.  Her hometown had a population of a thousand, 90% Native Alaskan.  She sees parallels with Hawai‘i. 

Sorensen:  We are so inundated by artwork that is propelled by commercialism, which is fueled by tourism.  I just wanted to show other ways of making art, and other ways of presenting it.

The current show features work from 34 artists, local and otherwise, ranging in age from 17 to 85.  Sorensen says she is simply looking for artists who demonstrate skill and thought in their work.

Sorensen:  Then, when we’re not having a show, we’ll flip back into active studio space as in community collaborations, like we had a splatter paint party, hoping to do something like that again, drawing workshops, life drawing, so the studio will always be transforming.

Surfing is the vibe at Polū Gallery in Hale‘iwa.

"Most of the artists are surfers, so they have a more free spirit, they’re mellow.  I like the idea of surfing!"

Polu Gallery owner Jun Yoshimura holds an example of "surf art" by Steven Kean. Yoshimura grew up in Europe and Japan, and his first love was music, before he paddled into Hawaiian waters.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Surfer Jun Yoshimura, who started the Green Room Gallery in Waikīkī, is super happy with his 3 year old surf focused gallery.  Yoshimura says surf art is easy going.

Yoshimura:  Simple.  Not too much, so it can fit your house.  Sometimes, some artists, I feel are too much, you know?

Yoshimura has expanded on the ocean theme in the gallery, now showing about a dozen photographs by master underwater photographer, Wayne Levin.  Levin’s photographs somehow look like scenes from a legend.

Levin:  Maybe the basic thing is, unlike a lot of underwater photographers, I’m not trying to describe the world beneath the surface.  To me it’s a mysterious, magical world and I’m trying to make pictures that actually deepen the mystery.

And how many Christmas gifts are trying to do that?

Levin:  The ones with people, the surfers, the free divers, the swimmers, maybe focus on people that are really at home in the ocean and their connectedness to the ocean.

Surf art is simple and fun.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Levin:  On the other hand, my fish school work shows large groups of these animals that are so coordinated, so interwoven that the question arises for me, What’s the individual?  Is it the individual fish or is it the whole school?  That opens up the question of whether we’re all really connected.

Levin:  A big part of my work nowadays is focusing on fish schools and even bird flocks and other things, trying to explore or ask the question, What really is the individual?  Is the individual just a single being or are we a part of something larger?

Wayne Levin. Bodysurfers.
Credit Wayne Levin

Levin says he is constantly looking for what he had not imagined, for pictures he did not anticipate. 

Levin:  I learn from the photographs and they ask questions of me.  So the ideas I have aren’t mostly pre-concepts, preconceived.  They spring up from the work itself, or from the experience, also.   

Find out the simple perspectives that give rise to photographs of such mystery in the brief extended interview.

On my way to Kailua Gallery I happened upon Kailua General Store, a truly general store!  There were water bottles, soaps, lotions, wine openers and harware supplies, but also fabulous men's shaving accoutrements, lots of real fishing gear, and what I understand is a fantastic foolproof coconut opener you can drive into the next green coconut you see.