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Rising Artists in Hawaii

There’s more to Hawaii’s contemporary art than ocean scenes and hula dancers. Check out these eight delectably collectible artists whose careers are gathering speed.


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photos: courtesy abigail romanchak

Abigail Romanchak

“He Iwa Ke Aloha” Media: Paper, ink, carborundum

When a high-school sports injury sent Abigail Romanchak to the sidelines, she headed for the art studio and found her calling. At college, she learned the art of printmaking, in which images are etched or carved into wood or metal plates, which are then inked by hand and applied to a surface. It’s a complex craft that involves many steps, much patience, and a healthy dose of chance. “I like the mystery that’s involved in printmaking,” says Romanchak. “Until you pull that final print, you never really know what you’re going to get. And every print is different.”

For ideas, Romanchak often looks to the land and lore of her native Hawaii. One recent work, a set of abstract-seeming prints collectively titled “Tracks,” documents the GPS-traced footsteps of conservationists across the East Maui Forest Reserve. Honolulu Museum of Art curator Inger Tully describes its installation in the museum’s Biennial IX as “one of those magic moments.” Pictured here is a work that riffs on a line from a Hawaiian epic: “Love is like an iwa bird, drifting out of sight.” Prices start at $850. abigailromanchak.com.


Jonathan Yukio Clark

“‘Alala: Rise with the Sun” Medium: Oil, acrylic, gold leaf, copper leaf, wood stain on panel with laser-cut steel

photos: courtesy jonathan yukio clark

This year, Jonathan Yukio Clark beat out more than 50 other artists to win the lucrative and prestigious Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Schaefer Portrait Challenge with “Grandma’s Story,” a portrait of his grandmother’s life using wood, paint, and silk obi he designed and had printed himself. What’s more, Clark swept the Challenge, taking home both the Juror’s Choice Award and the Marian Freeman Peoples’ Choice Award. Critically acclaimed and popular to boot: not bad for an artist who’s just 24 years old.

Clark’s work gathers traditional elements from Asian craft and folklore, Hawaiian mythology and skillful Western photorealistic painting, and blends them in contemporary ways. For the piece shown here, Clark researched the population history of the alala, or endangered Hawaiian crow, before conceiving an Asian-style screen with open metalwork that makes it seem as if the screen, like the crow, is disappearing before the viewer’s eyes. Prices start at $900. jyclark.com.

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Honolulu Magazine January 2020
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