Creativity In Bloom

One of my great joys, a place of quiet refuge and contemplation while attending UH Manoa, was the UH Art Gallery and surrounding areas. Unlike so much of the harried day, time spent gazing at the expertly arranged works (they don’t just present pieces, they create an entire atmosphere) or watching students construct organic sculptures in the bamboo garden felt nurturing and fulfilling, never depleting. There’s a lot happening in the vicinity these next few weeks, ready to quench your artistic soul.


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Phoebe Cummings at work on 'Cella'. Photo courtesy of Brandon Ng/University of Hawaii Art Gallery

In the larger gallery (, 956-8251) is a large, snaking clay creation by artist Phoebe Cummings. She spent strenuous hours pushing unfired clay through fine wire mesh and gathering the small, wormy pieces to shape a cave-like structure, Cella (on display through April 5). The dictionary defines cella as the inner area of an ancient temple. All the tiny tentacles give the textured, amorphous installation a cavernous, underwater feel.

Just across the sidewalk is the Commons Gallery, where Michael Hengler’s MFA thesis exhibition, Still Flow, will be on display March 10-15. The industrious project invites visitors to step into the red glow of a molten lava field, with ground that crunches beneath your feet while you journey, via a video and sculptural installation, on an 11-foot lava boat that flows the lava rivers of Hawaii Island.

Finally, visit the Art Auditorium to be immersed in some lady power with the National Organization for Women’s production of Vagina Monologues March 7, 8 and 15 ($10, 7 p.m., This insightful, inspiring, funny, thought-provoking, tear-inducing show introduces audiences to important issues that surpass its attention-grabbing title. Fourteen UH students will present monologues, including two new monologues from creator Eve Ensler, and the staging will include fashion, sound, motion, slam poetry and dialogues unique to this production. Funds raised support Joyful Heart Foundation. As noted by regional director Kata Issari: “UH Manoa’s production of Vagina Monologues is helping raise support for our work to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.”

All three venues invite you to step beyond your boundaries into alternate, fascinating realms.


What would this world be without teenagers? For parents, having adolescents in the house can be like dealing with the “terrible twos” on steroids – a combustive bundle of noise, emotional flare-ups, a house afire with hustle and bustle. For teens, that inner fervor stokes a time of awakening, excitement, nervousness, of life-forming decisions, choosing paths, discovering Who Am I?

All that passionate teen energy is splashed across the walls of the Hawaii State Art Museum (through March 28; 250 S. Hotel St., 586-0300) thanks to a collaboration between the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and the Scholastic Art Awards, which marks 50 years in Hawaii with this year’s exhibit. The display showcases more than 250 pieces of art submitted by seventh- to 12th-graders, selections that where whittled down from 1,460 entries from across the state by a panel of judges. The winners compete nationally next month.

I was lucky to visit on a day when Farrington High School students were buzzing through the space, commenting on the art pieces, taking photos, adding their signatures to a giant blackboard. The pulse of the museum came alive, thanks to the curious, absorbed teens, who checked out both the student artwork and the work of some of Hawaii’s most legendary artists. Three boys discussed astronomy as they sat, gazing at a painting depicting ancient Hawaiian navigation. “Now that one’s super cool,” said a girl nearby, calling her friends to join her in studiously analyzing the theme and composition of a rendering of Chinese terra cotta soldiers lined up under a Chinatown bridge in downtown Honolulu.

The student pieces include works that are quilted, woven, sketched, painted, made into jewelry, sculpted and made in various other media. There are dresses made from the skeletal remnants of leaves, from rolled magazine pages, crocheted plastic bags, recycled packaging material, and ivory material stained with coffee and folded to create creamy floral patterns. The images leaping from the walls are provocative, intelligent, full of attitude. Some tackle social issues to sobering effect, some make you smile, while all invite you to linger and appreciate the skill involved.

The students were the lifeblood of the museum today, and they’re tomorrow’s movers and shakers of Hawaii nei.