Kaori Ukaji: Serenely Proliferating

May 16, 2017

Kaori Ukaji. Serenely Proliferating. Installation in Artists of Hawai'i 2017 at the Honolulu Museum of Art through May 28, 2017.
Credit noe tanigawa

The 2017 Artists of Hawai‘i exhibition at the Honolulu Museum of Art is more about experience than depiction this year.  Kasey Lindley’s video installation merges technology and play.  Another installation, made of tissue, cloth and thread, burrows into both body and psyche.  Kaori Ukaji spoke to HPR’s Noe Tanigawa about her piece, Serenely  Proliferating.

Hilo based artist, Kaori Ukaji, one of four featured Artists of Hawai'i for 2017 at the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Credit John Hook, courtesy of FLUX magazine

The Artists of Hawai‘i exhibition continues through May 28th at the Honolulu Museum of Art.  

The 2017 Artists of Hawai‘i are: Kaili Chun (O‘ahu), Hongtao Zhou (O‘ahu), Kasey Lindley (O‘ahu), Kaori Ukaji (Hawai‘i Island)

Artist Kaori Ukaji had a cancer scare last year, at age 52, it prompted some self-examination.

Kaori Ukaji. Serenely Proliferating. (detail)
Credit noe tanigawa

Ukaji:  At that time I was living with some kind of fear, I may have cancer.  Eventually that feeling became probably I have cancer, kind of feeling.  So of course end up I didn’t have it but those kinds of feelings, plus I’m 52, changing my body physically, and also mentally, as a woman.  Just thinking about my whole life, who I am.  Those kinds of things I was thinking about for a couple of months.

Ukaji’s installation at the entrance to the Honolulu Museum’s Artists of Hawai‘i show is completely incarnadine and white.  Incarnadine is bright crimson, or a pinkish red.  In the installation, Serenely Proliferating, incarnadine creeps and spreads out of a corner, it saturates little strips of her own skin that Ukaji has hoarded and pressed into a physical relic, like a little rug made of shredded mango.  Incarnadine proliferates on the fabric hangings.  

Ukaji:  I was not thinking of cell or skin or bones, but included mentally about womanhood.  Last 3-4 years I ‘m working with red color.  Not only disease or negative, it includes positive, or sensual or sex ideas.  Those kinds of feelings.

What is it that is proliferating?

Kaori Ukaji. Serenely Proliferating. Multi media installation.
Credit noe tanigawa

Ukaji:  I don’t know.  actually l feel like I don’t need to know and I don’t need to look for what it is.  So that is maybe fear, fear of age?  I don’t know something more relaxed to the life? And acceptance, like more 30’s, 40’s do everything, have to get everything, and I still do.  I’m so greedy!  But I start to feel, Maybe I don’t need to live like that, maybe I can relax.  Yeah, some kind of emptiness or empty space may be coming.  Maybe it’s not coming through some busyness or something, more emptiness or time or space might come to me.

Many artists figure what you find depends on how you look for it.

The Artists of Hawai‘i show has been held at the Honolulu Museum of Art since 1950.  A few years ago, it became a biennial production, and this year, there was added emphasis on the process.  Arts of Hawai‘i curator, Healoha Johnston, held regular studio visits with each of the four participants over a span of eight months to develop this body of work.  Below, a video installation by Kasey Lindley, also in the Artists of Hawai‘i exhibition.  Lindley's work plays with graphics and tide pools.

Kasey Lindley. Intertidal Grandeur. Photography, video, digital media installation at the 2017 Artists of Hawai'i show at the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Credit noe tanigawa