First anniversaries are marked with gifts of paper, second anniversaries with gifts of cotton, third anniversaries with gifts of leather, and so on. By that protocol, shouldn't the Schaefer International Gallery be observing the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's 25th with silver?
Yes, but instead, the Schaefer's director and curator, Neida Bangerter, has opted for wood, which by conventional protocol ought to have had its turn two decades ago. And who will fault her? Start to finish, "The Woodworker's Journey: Concept to Creation" strikes a chord of celebration.
An announcement of the exhibit speaks to the timeless, potentially universal attraction of the practices on view here: "The evolution of woodworking has been driven by a love of trees and their essential role in nature, providing shade, food, oxygen, shelter, warmth and beauty."
In consultation with Peter Naramore of Maui and Tai Lake of Hawaii island, both of whom are also are represented in the exhibition, Bangerter has assembled new pieces by 25 invited woodworkers from the Aloha State and the mainland, all masters of their varied crafts. The guidelines for participants were deliberately kept simple. The work might be functional, conceptual or purely decorative, but the primary material had to be wood.
The wood, as it turns out, proves as arresting as the work, and vice versa. The checklist of entries (all offered for sale, at prices from $1,428 to $48,000, many already taken) runs from grandly scaled pieces of furniture only teams of professional movers could manage to carvings that fit into the palm of a hand.
Ted Lott's "Dwell #4," which recycles a found suitcase, seems part rebus, part social critique. Targeting the 46th U.S. president, Craig Nutt's motorized "Instructable Object" translates take-no-prisoners political cartooning into the third (and fourth) dimensions. "Manzanita Sphere," by Roger Asay and Rebecca Davis, takes the razzle-dazzle of traditional Chinese openwork ba lls within balls of jade or ivory and turns it inside out, constructing a dense globe of broken branches from the inside out.
A single artist has opted, as it were, for camouflage. That would be Michael Patrick Smith, whose clawlike abstraction "Industrial Revolution" is covered in copper leaf, mimicking solid metal.
Every work in the show has stories to tell: stories of metamorphosis, beginning in the forest, the domain of nature, and ending in the workshop, the human
'THE WOODWORKER'S JOURNEY:
CONCEPT TO CREATION'
>> Where: Schaefer International Gallery, Maui Arts & Cultural Center, One Cameron Way, Kahului
>> When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, through Feb. 23
>> Cost: Free
>> Info: 242-7469 or mauiarts.com
>> Observe & Play Family Day: Families can view the exhibit and engage in art-making fun from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 15
domain of responsive minds and hands. Illustrated wall labels give clues about individual process and philosophy, providing glimpses of artists' workspaces
and technological know-how. It's striking how many masters and assistants are shown breathing through safety respirators. (Sawdust. Fumes. Of course.)
Apart from a subliminal scent of cut timber, a first impression upon entering the gallery may well be the luster of polished koa, glowing from within like the mineral known as tiger's-eye. Joined together in sections like the iris of a camera, it shows to hypnotic effect on the top of the table Mats Fogelvik calls "Vortex Series #3: A Star Is Born."
PRECIOUS YET durable koa dominates in a whole assortment of cabinets, none more hypnotic than "Tiki Torch," by Robert Butts, which is remarkable, too, for its virtuoso stalk-and-leaf decoration in an assortment of tropical woods. The interior, redolent of camphor, conjures up a magic forest. (For a whiff, request assistance at the front desk. "Tiki Torch" is just one of many pieces of which you might wish to see the insides, and so you may, but please, only with the help of staff.)
Serendipitous correspondences pop up throughout the show. Where there are trees, there are birds — and thus it is here. In a fine instance of the ancient art of marquetry, Shaun Fleming's imposing display case "Plight of the Nukupu'u" depicts a perched honeycreeper "painted" in precision- cut shapes of Across the gallery a complementary flight of frigate birds adorns a side panel of Peter Naramore's cabinet "Kula's View." paper-thin veneer shaved from a mix of arboreal sources.
And where there are birds, surely there must be feathers. Miriam Carpenter's contribution consists of a pair of them, carved from white oak and burnished with graphite powder, more or less life-size and real enough to qualify as "trompe l'oeil." Nearby hangs Michael Cullen's monumental "Fossilized Feather," nothing lifelike about it, spread over six adjacent mahogany panels, each approximatelyone square foot.
A minimalist sensibility surfaces in Dean Pulver's "Black Waterfall," consisting of some 20 Douglas fir balls increasing in diameter from smaller-than-ping-pong to larger- than-tennis in frozen free fall along a shallow arc. Minimalism in the repetitive rather than the reductive sense is on view in Paul Schürch's "Waldo's Coffee," a smooth, slightly convex panel covered in a coffee-bean pattern of koa, mango and mahogany. Stripping function to form at its purest, Yuri Kobayashi's "Breathe — I Hear You (Rocking Chair)," airy in geisha-pale bent ash, raises the minimalist aesthetic of Shaker furniture to who knows what higher power.
San Francisco is 2,300 miles from here, Tokyo nearly 4,000, New York nearly 5,000. You could travel a long way to find a show as immediate in its visual appeal and yet as sophisticated in its ideas and craftsmanship as "The Woodworker's Journey." Don't hope to do it justice during an intermission at the MACC. It's been a quarter-century in the making. Give it time.