Isn't the real sport in juried art shows second- guessing the jury? Hence, the grand tradition of the "Salon des Refusés," or showcase for rejects, going back to 1863, when the tony but hidebound official Paris Salon, sponsored by the French government and the Academy of Fine Arts, shut out the progressive likes of Gustave Courbet and Edouard Manet.
What, I wonder, might a gathering of rejects look like on Maui in the year 2020?
The Annual Juried Exhibition at the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center in Makawao welcomes all comers, namebrand professionals to Sunday dabblers. Artists may enter as many as three pieces each, none more than 2 years old, in any medium of their choice, from painting, sculpture, drawing, photography and printmaking to ceramics, jewelry, fiber, wood and that perennial catch-all "mixed."
Yet the invariably pleasing jumble that results looks remarkably unchanged year to year, showcasing the same cadre of Valley Isle talents you'll encounter from under the banyan tree in Lahaina to the galleries at resorts in Wailea. For whatever reason, this year's haul includes no glass, a medium in which Maui artisans excel.
This year 174 hopefuls inundated the hui with 360 submissions. Of the 39 (or roughly 1 in 5) who made the cut, 13 got lucky more than once, for a total of 58 items in three sunny galleries. Seven honorees are represented with two works; an improbable six, with three. A viewer might reasonably ask why.
By email the Honolulu-based artist, curator and consultant Kelly Sueda, this year's guest juror, explained his criteria, which boil down, in essence, to excellence of the work, his professional integrity and the wild card of personal taste. Happily, the hui's exhibitions and marketing coordinator, Josephine Bergill-Gentile, who hung the show, has exercised some ingenious artistic judgment of her own, sometimes placing like items with like, sometimes separating like from like for greater surprise.
Before scrutinizing those multiple citations, let's focus on standouts from the rank-and- file of the one-and-done. A well-deserved ribbon for Juror's Choice fell to Becky Lewis for "Wave After Wave," a construction of plant materials that resembles a free-form Mesoamerican vase — or a precarious stack of slate-gray and reddish- brown bowls and plates neatly contained within an elastic net. Jonathan Yukio Clark was honored with the Recognition Award from the Hawai'i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts for his boxy yet elegant architectural miniature "Across Two Islands," in hardwood and mixed media.
Now to those winners of the triple crown. Conspicuous among them is Derek Bencomo, whose spiral nebulae in turned and sculpted wood are prized by discerning collectors around the world. But in this context do we need three? Three of Jennifer Valanzuela's Japanese- inspired candy-colorand- gold fantasy landscapes, in oil on panel? Three of Aio Wolf watered-down Peter Max knockoffs? Three rings by jeweler Nicole Busto? A necklace, an armband and a pair of earrings from Will Ryan, who beats silver and other metals into ornamental spirals? Before one's eyes, art morphs to "art" and from "art" to merchandise.
With Thomas C. Jones, the last of the triply crowned, that transformation does not occur. Some might question whether he belongs here at all, but within a spiky signature style we might classify as primitive, self-taught or "outsider," each of his efforts has its distinctive vibe — jaunty and energized for a pair of bikers standing on the grass; zonked for a moon-eyed, stone-face surfer(?) dude staring up from a bed; self-infatuated for a profile of Donald Trump mesmerized by another profile of Donald Trump.
The checklist gives Jones' medium as "marquee on eucaboard"— eucaboard being a material carpenters use for the bottoms of drawers, the backs of bookcases and other parts of furniture that don't show. What "marquee" signifies in this context is anybody's guess; the colors are matte, flat and a little dusty.
Given a few gold stars to pass out, this visitor would stick one on the ecological nightmare Caroline Killhour calls "Maui Burning," a relief print in doomsday white on black. Another would go to Larry Berko's prominently displayed oil-on-canvas portrait "Where She Went," which bathes a Polynesian beauty and her gigantic Popsicle in eerie shades of lime and turquoise.
Susan David's pair of sequined denim jackets — tributes to Bob Dylan, who performed on Maui in 2014 — simply leap from the wall.
Elizabeth Keller's watercolor "Old Bank of Hawaii Building (Paia)" pleases for its transparency and luminous calm, as do Janet Davis' house-shaped island seascape "The World Is a Magical Place" for its cheery naivete and Pamela Andelin's dense, jazzy "Malta Abstract," both in oil. Kirk Kurokawa, also working in oil, has composed a spare "trompe l'oeil" still life consisting of a ballpoint pen lying beside a narrow, much longer paint brush. The label adjacent reads, "What Defines You? #1."
What indeed? Language or images? Even the title deserves a prize.
2020 ANNUAL JURIED EXHIBITION
Where: Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center, 2841 Baldwin Ave., Makawao>> When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, through Feb. 21
Founded by the late W.S. Merwin and his wife, Paula, to preserve in perpetuity their Haiku home with its hand-planted, botanically priceless exotic palm forest, the Merwin Conservancy seeks to foster a reverence for language, nature and the imagination. To that end the Conservancy's Green Room Series presents readings, conversation and book-signings with distinguished literary and ecologically minded guests. Welcome Joy Harjo, enrolled member of the Mvskoke Nation, playwright and saxophonist. "The saxophone is so human," she has written. "Its tendency is to be rowdy, edgy, talk too loud, bump into people, say the wrong words at the wrong time. But then, you take a breath, all the way from the center of the earth and blow. All that heartache is forgiven. All that love we humans carry makes a sweet, deep sound and we fly a little." Have I mentioned that Harjo is America's reigning poet laureate, following
in the shining footsteps of Merwin himself? Poets laureate don't grow on trees, you know. — 7 p.m. Thursday at MACC's McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets: $25 ($10 students) at mauiarts.org or call 242-7469.
Arnold Schoenberg, immortal (or infamous) as the trailblazer of 12-tone music, was also an orchestrator of genius, capable of repurposing a piano quartet for symphony orchestra or crunching symphonies to chamber proportions. With Mahler's mournful, tempestuous four-part cycle "Songs of a Wayfarer," he was working in the latter vein. His exquisitely tinted version — performed by Robert E. Wills, baritone,
plus 10 of Maui's most intrepid classical instrumentalists — forms the centerpiece of "A Classical Soirée" presented by ProArts and Halekulani Kula. Also on the program: Debussy's sunnily sensual "Afternoon of a Faun," arranged for trio, plus Mozart and Prokofiev. — 7:30 p.m. Thursday at ProArts Playhouse, 1280 S. Kihei Road. Tickets: $40 at proartsmaui.com or call 463-6550.
Let them entertain you! "Cabaret and Cocktails: Pastie Premiers 2020!" brings what old-timers used to call the Burly Q to Azeka Makai, promising new acts, new talent and new teases. Titillation guaranteed, until the vice squad rolls in. (Does anybody still have a vice squad?) Lin McEwan, ProArts Playhouse's bouncy executive director, has been telling folks to leave the kids at home. — 8 p.m. Saturday at ProArts Playhouse. Tickets: $25, $35 at proartsmaui.com or call 463-6550.