How 56 Artists Fit Into 56 Boxes at the Hawai‘i State Art Museum
Celebrated contemporary artists come together for a unique pop-up exhibition at HiSAM featuring one-of-a-kind artworks in tiny metal tins.
Boxes by Bryzane Lagmay (left) and Satoru Abe.
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF KEIKO HATANO
What kind of art piece might you make or put inside a 4-inch tin box?
That was the question posed to 56 artists in Hawai‘i and Los Angeles by curators Keiko Hatano and K.J. Baysa earlier this year. It came about when Hatano, who owns an original skincare product line, received dozens of metal clamshell boxes in the wrong size that couldn’t fit her soaps and lotions. Rather than return them, she realized they might be the perfect size with which to make art.
Hatano, who is the art gallery curator for the furniture store and creativity hub fishcake, reached out to Baysa about distributing the boxes to artists and organizing an exhibition with the pieces they created. “The artists had three months and could do anything,” Hatano says, “whether they wanted to make something on the outside of the tin or something designed inside it. There was no limiting theme or guidelines.”
Baysa was working in Los Angeles at the time and decided to split the boxes with Hatano: 23 boxes would go to artists in Hawai‘i and 23 to artists in California. “But all of them had to have some link to Hawai‘i,” says Baysa. “The artists in Los Angeles, some of them were born and raised in Hawai‘i. Others had strong ties or worked for years in the Islands but moved away.”
The exhibit is on display now through June at the Hawai‘i State Art Museum Gallery Shop x Mori by Art + Flea, on the ground floor under the Hawai‘i State Art Museum. (The shop is independently operated from HiSAM, which only exhibits works from the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts’ Art in Public Places Collection or through collaborations with the Department of Education, such as the 2018 Young Artists of Hawai‘i exhibit, currently on display.)
Across tabletops and shelves, the 56 assorted boxes are each unique and personal, ranging from exploratory non-sequitur scenes to entire miniature worlds. The exhibition, called ArtInTime, is inspired by painter and sculptor Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made and boîte-en-valise (box-in-a-suitcase) series, where the French artist created miniature reproductions of his work in a fold-out container the size of a small shoebox. “These are diminutive boxes and intime is the French word for intimate or small, so this is ‘Art Intime.’ It’s a Duchampian play on words,” says Baysa.
Maile Yawata and Lauren Trangmar, who were both selected for the Honolulu Museum of Art’s 2015 Artists of Hawai‘i exhibition, collaborated on piece where they ran over the box using a car with inked tires—a response to having to work with required materials.
Scientific illustrator and fiber artist Michelle Schwengel-Regala created a yarn “ice cube” topped with a black flag in her box; a symbol of frozen ice shelves, delicate and threatened by climate change. Paper conservator and artist Hiroko Sakurai built a hakoniwa, or Japanese miniature garden, known for its symbolic and therapeutic properties. Spent bullet shells and assorted vintage items overgrown with moss fill Bryzane Lagmay’s tin case, creating an “antihomage” to ongoing wars with a nod to January’s ballistic missile alert scare.
Lynne Yamamoto’s pieces honors the late Jay Jensen.
In an untitled piece, Lynne Yamamoto painted 23 red, yellow and green leaves in watercolor—one leaf for each year she knew the Honolulu Museum of Art’s curator of contemporary art Jay Jensen, who passed away last year. Many pieces in the exhibition are dedicated to the memory of Jensen, who was an eminent figure in Hawai‘i’s local art scene. A portion of the exhibition’s proceeds will benefit a special art acquisition fund for the purchase of new contemporary works for the museum.
Artwork in the exhibition ranges from $43.30 to $3,500, with most around the $250 range. Some acclaimed Hawai‘i artists featured include Satoru Abe, John Koga, Masami Teraoka and Harry Tsuchidana.
ArtInTime at the Hawai‘i State Art Museum Gallery Shop x Mori, 250 S. Hotel St., ground floor, (808) 566-6615, shop.hisam.com