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Randy Takaki: Emotive Figures

noe tanigawa
noe tanigawa
east hawai'i cultural center
Credit east hawai'i cultural center
Poster for the "Randy Takaki Homage" commemorative show at the East Hawai'i Cultural Center in Hilo, 2016.

  Sculptor Randy Takaki was well known, in a way.  His carved figures are mysterious, but oddly inviting, and he made thousands of them.  HPR’sNoeTanigawa discovered the many people who own and dealt with the works are connected by a singular thread.

An "Homage to Randy Takaki" continues at the East Hawai‘i Cultural Center in Hilo through September 2, 2016. 

On O‘ahu,  Randy Takaki’s memorial tribute will take place on Saturday, August 27th, 2016 from 2 pm to 4 pm at the courtyard of KCC's Koa Art Gallery.  Donations to the family are welcome. 

Sculptor and businessman Randy M. Takaki died suddenly after visiting the Hilo Library and passed on at the Hilo Medical Center on Thursday, July 14th.  He was 64 years old. 

“From what I understood he used to work for Propark or one of the—he was a parking attendant guy.” 

Mike Schnack, proprietor of Cedar Street Galleries, knew sculptor Randy Takaki for years.  “Art got to be a burden and he moved to the Big Island to do his art.” 

“Did you ever see his studio?  Wasn’t it sacred?”  David Behlke, director of KCC’s Koa Gallery showed Takaki’s work in 2014.  “He was a real estate agent who couldn’t save money because he put it all back into his wood and his tools.  He lived simply, like a monk almost.”

“At one point a couple years ago he made a sojourn to Japan because he wanted to throw a thousand of his little guys into the water to commemorate and bless all the people who had lost their lives in the nuclear meltdown.”

noe tanigawa
Credit noe tanigawa
Randy Takaki, "Guardian," cypress wood and sumi ink at Cedar Street Galleries

  Those figures, called monks, wood spirits, or guardians---they’re  elongated sticks with hunched shoulders and bowed head.  They are not unique, not at all, but each one is kind of remarkable.   Lauren Faulkner of Fine Art Associates has showed and sold quite a few over the years.  Faulkner says one day Takaki was in to collect a piece to take with him to Japan.

“I was upstairs and when I came down, he was forehead to forehead with this figure.  He knew how much I loved the piece and that I had a hard time letting it go, but it was his.  This was not too long after the big tsunami in Japan and he was going over there to do a show and I believe it was also helping with some fundraising or something.  So I said okay, I guess I’ll let you have it.”

“When he came back, he told me the story.  He said they had set up the show and he liked the look of it and he went back to the hotel with a splitting head ache.  Later that day, one of the people who had helped organize the show told him that black piece had cracked right through the head.”  

Faulkner confirms: “These guardians just kept coming up and coming up for him.  They’re made of wire and wood and…” 

I have one made of a sort of cement.

“His goal was to do ten thousand of these guardians, or monks.  He didn’t really call them guardians, that’s a label other people put on it.”  Painter, sculptor Glenn Yamanoha is part of the Volcano artists’ community that Takaki belonged to.   “The last I talked to him which was a couple days before he passed he had done five thousand eight hundred something, like that..”

“He was kind of a hermit but also he was friendly to everybody.  We used to call him the mayor of Volcano.  He’d know everything that was going on.”

Sources agree Takaki was moved by the horror and aftermath of the Fukushima earthquake in Japan.

“He had plans to trek, by himself, along the coast of Japan, in the hills, in the tsunami area.  He was talking about just doing sculpture with whatever was available there, leaving it, and that was it.  So nobody knew who did it.”  Yamanoha says people, and even a local cultural institution, wanted to document the journey but Takaki wasn’t interested.  He said that would defeat the whole purpose.  

noe tanigawa
Credit noe tanigawa
Randy Takaki, assorted small wood figures, Cedar Street Gallery

Randy’s works at Cedar Street Galleries.  

Randy’s works at Fine Art Associates.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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