Two simultaneous photo exhibits opening at MACC’s Schaefer International Gallery

“Futaba” -- Photo courtesy Schaefer International Gallery

Opening Saturday at the Schaefer International Gallery at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului are two photography exhibits running concurrently. Japanese photographer Ai Iwane’s “Island in My Mind, Fukushima” and Melissa Ann Pinney’s “Girl Transcendent” will be exhibited through Aug. 17.

Ai Iwane is a photographer who was born in Tokyo and is based in Tokyo, Fukushima and Hawaii. She started her career as a photographer in 1996 and has drawn inspiration from observing and documenting niche communities around the world.

For over 12 years, Iwane has documented the connection between Japanese immigrants who traveled to Hawaii from Fukushima, Japan at the beginning of the 20th century, through to the current impact of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

In the early 1900s, Japanese immigrants who came to Maui to work in the sugar industry brought with them a song called, “Fukushima Ondo.” This song accompanies the Buddhist ceremony which honors the dead, the Bon Dance. These festivals are regular summer events throughout Hawaii.

Shortly after the March 2011 disaster in Fukushima prefecture — first the Tohoku earthquake, followed by the tsunami flooding and subsequent damage to the nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant — Iwane developed her idea and created an exhibition of photographs.

Futaba, Fukushima Hisakatsu Yokoyama, 2014 by Ai Iwane -- Photo courtesy Schaefer International Gallery

These experiences led to an artistic journey of seven years as she documented the aftermath of the Fukushima devastation with images of residents and abandoned homes, farms and landscapes that were once thriving communities.

Iwane uses a Kodak Cirkut, a 360-degree rotating large format panoramic camera, which was patented in 1904. The camera weighs 50 pounds and produces 8-inch-wide negatives that can be printed to any length. Iwane’s camera is on loan from the Nagamine family of Lahaina.

From the 1920s to 1970s, Japanese immigrants to Hawaii used this type of camera to take group photos at temples after memorial services with mourners standing next to the coffins of the deceased. This is a Hawaii tradition, and does not exist in Japan.

The large-scale camera and format Iwane uses is difficult to master. It calls for dedication and patience — virtues that have shown to be a strong aspect of her craft. This is a compelling exhibition — it documented history as it unfolded, while respectfully honoring the many losses and giving insight into a disaster that is both far away and close to home.

A related lecture by Iwane called “Documenting History through Photography” will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. June 30. She will talk about her approach to developing recent projects on Japanese immigrant communities in Hawaii.

“Girl Talk, Bell School, Pinney, Chicago 2018” -- Photo courtesy Schaefer International Gallery

Running concurrently with Iwane’s exhibit is “Girl Transcendent” by Melissa Ann Pinney.

Pinney is a fine art photographer based in Evanston, Ill. She is best known for her studies of the social lives and long-term exploration of emerging feminine identity of girls. Her early inspiration came from photographs of Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank, by the portraits of Julia Margaret Cameron and the street photos of Garry Winogrand and Helen Levitt.

Her photographs have won numerous awards, including Guggenheim and National Endowment of the Arts fellowships, and may be found in the collections of major museums in the US and abroad.

Vivid with color, gesture and light, the images Pinney makes suggest that the mysterious and ardent inner life of girls will withstand the inevitability of adulthood.

“Female protagonists were few to girls of my generation, and accounts of women artists simply not available,” says Pinney in her statement for the exhibition. “Reading was my refuge. When I discovered ‘The Lives of the Saints’ in our Catholic school library, I found stories that sustained me — accounts of young women whose rich and ardent inner lives became beacons for my own budding life as an artist.”

“Skaters” by Melissa Ann Pinney -- Photo courtesy Schaefer International Gallery

Her first monograph, “Regarding Emma: Photographs of American Women & Girls (With a Foreward by Ann Patchett), contained photos from over 20 years of work and depicted the rites of American womanhood — a prom, a wedding, a baby shower, a tea party — and the informal passages of girlhood –combing a doll’s hair and doing laundry with a mother. The birth and childhood of her own daughter, Emma, gave new meaning and purpose to her photography.

A related lecture given by Pinney called “Intentions of Portraiture” will be from 2 to 3 p.m. June 30. She will discuss her techniques and share ideas about composition, light and creating mood through photography.

Both related lectures are free and open to the public, however pre-registration is requested. Please email shannon@mauiarts.org.

Schaefer International Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free.

For more information, visit www.mauiarts.org, call 242-7469 or the gallery direct at 243-4288.

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