A Cure for Common Ennui
STARVING NO MORE / We get island fever for a lot of reasons–even artistically. Compared to San Francisco, it often seems like our stream of visiting artists is closer to a sad trickle. In reality, Hawaii is a vibrant and valid destination many artists seek out. A big credit for this belongs to the UH Manoa Art Department’s Intersections Program, a donor-funded grassroots effort led by contemporary art critic, historian and professor Jaimey Hamilton. Since 2008, many influential artists and scholars have come through the program–Fred Tomaselli, The Yes Men, Daido Moriyama, Michael Hoyt and Mark Cowardin, for example–not only exhibiting, but also connecting with the community in an intimate way through Intersections’s workshops, exhibits, lectures and conversation.
Hamilton, a Hawaii resident of six years by way of Boston, says, “[Boston is] a place that has a pretty strong network of artists, but always saw itself very self-consciously as [creatively] poor and impoverished in comparison to New York . . . There was this constant anxiety that not enough art was being produced.” Hamilton says she heard the same misconceptions about Hawaii. “It just triggered a sense that this psychological profile . . . is a myth. Of course there were tons of things happening when I got here.”
Intersections’s artists are selected based on nominations from students, faculty and the community. “[We look for] someone with an art process which seems to be relevant to current broader perspectives on contemporary cultural issues,” says Hamilton. It’s also important that the artist can collaborate with students. “We want to make sure that [the artist] can actually build something concrete and worthy of their art practice and of the community efforts in a matter of a few weeks,” she says, admitting that it can be “pretty hard to achieve.”
Ayad Alkadhi, the current Intersections artist in residence, was raised in Baghdad and now resides in New York City. His vivid artwork, often done with charcoal, acrylic, pen and pencil, rests heavily on Arabic newspaper. In a piece titled Sleeping Beauties, hot pink outlines of gas pump hoses hang from a chaotic cluster of neon human limbs. Phoebe Cummings, an artist who builds intricate site-specific floral landscapes with unfired clay, will follow Alkadhi in residency.