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Hawai‘i Craftsmen, and Two Hands in Particular

Noe Tanigawa
Noe Tanigawa

The Hawai‘i Craftsmen showcase fine, handmade-in-Hawai‘i creations every year, with a special commitment to Neighbor Island artists.   Their 51st Statewide Juried Exhibition honors Honolulu sculptor and educator Fred Roster, whose personal connection between heart and hand has shaped generations of artists. HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports.

Chris EdwardsLong view of Hawai'i Craftsmen 51st Annual Statewide Juried Exhibition, 2018.
Credit Chris Edwards

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A conversation with Lynette Roster about her husband, sculptor, educator, Fred Roster.

In 2018, three hundred entries were submitted to the Hawai‘i Craftsmen 51st Statewide Juried Exhibition from across Hawai‘i, 109 works selected.  Here’s the breakdown this year:

8 from Moloka’i

10 from Kaua’i

13 from Hawai'i Island

14 from Maui

64 from O’‘ahu

Chris Edwards
Credit Chris Edwards

Traditionally a diverse exhibition with high standards for quality, this year the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts has nominated 5 works from the show for acquisition into their permanent collection. The Honolulu Museum of Art has nominated 2 works from this show for acquisition into their permanent collection.

Isabella Hughes, co-founder of the Honolulu Biennial was the 2018 juror.  I asked for her reflections on the pieces she saw.

Hughes:  A lot of the works this time were very reflective of the very specific and charged moment we are in, as a country and around the world.  Very political, they either had strong political overtones or these delicate undertones that were quite apparent.

Hughes:  Another theme I saw emerge was this move back to nature whether through shape, form, material, really natural themes and esthetics.  The thing I was looking for most, and for me what made strong work, was when there was a strong nod to history.  I also was looking at how materials that have a long history of craftsmanship are being re-contextualized with something innovative and unexpected. 

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa
Fred Roster. St. Francis of Assisi. (detail)

Hughes:  One thing I enjoyed about this specific show and what I think Hawai‘i Craftsmen does so well, is actually flying the juror to view work in person.  I selected about 45 pieces from the Neighbor islands, so this is definitely one of those shows on O‘ahu that has a very strong and balanced representation.  I think we’ve got work from everywhere but L?na‘i, so hopefully next year we have craftspeople from L?na‘i applying too, but there was nice representation out of Moloka‘i.  

51st statewide juried exhibition opened in the main gallery at Linekona, the Honolulu Museum of Art School.  It’s dedicated this year to Honolulu’s beloved sculptor and teacher, the late Fred Roster.  There’s a small gathering of his work at the entrance to the exhibit, but it’s nothing like the fabulous array of things in his own home.  His wife, Lynette, invited us to visit yesterday, their delightful hand crafted home up ‘‘?ina Koa.

I don’t mean the whole house is made by hand, I mean, you feel Fred’s hands everywhere you go.  As we sat on their shady porch, Lynette told me about a time a white van lost its brakes and careened off the hill.  Fred made his way down the embankment, and held the man’s hand until he died.

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Lynette Roster:  For him, reaching out with his hands was such a strong metaphor.

If you’re a fan of Fred, listen to the extended interview for endearing tidbits, like he and Lynette loved Yohei for a special night out, his affection for sayings by Stoics, and the upbringing that so shaped his love for wood.  She chose the pieces for the Craftsmen exhibit.

Roster:  It’s a different kind of exhibit because I’m showing pieces Fred made for me and gave to me over the years.  Some are little objects, some are jewelry, rings and bracelets, my wedding rings I had like five bands!  They’re all filled with memories.

Roster:  Why would I share it?  I think it’s cathartic for me.  Why not share it?  Fred made it.

So many people know Fred, but don’t really know him as you do.

Roster:  Even I don’t really know him!

How did he look at dying? 

Roster:  He was ready for it because the Fred after surgery, after chemotherapy, he lost so much of what he loved. He loved being on his bicycle.  He gave away all his bicycles to his students.  He loved the freedom of exploring.  He couldn’t drive anymore, after the first emergency room, he had a grand mal seizure on the table at ER.

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa
Lauhala weaver Lynette Roster.

Roster:  We still walked Bella together, but over 20 months, it got shorter and shorter.  But he still pushed himself, because he was an athlete, he wasn’t afraid to push himself

Roster:  Of course he was afraid, and it made me look at death and dying.  And he was writing.  He’s writing about life and death and how he wished he had said thank you more in life.

Roster:  As in his art, his writing was just spectacular.  It just nailed you right here, in some storytelling way.

Roster:  He never complained.  The brain tumor was not painful.  We looked for things to be thankful for every day.  Kind of sad, but that’s how it was.

And still is.

Roster:  Still hard, but, I went to Bhutan, and it just gave me a lift.  It’s telling me, live with an open heart.  Experience life.  Be out of your comfort zone, but live.

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa
Fred Roster. Monkeys for Peace. Monkeypod.

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