Art Maui 2013

KAHULUI – Inside the walls of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Schaefer International Gallery were 135 works of art from artists throughout the Valley Isle.

The exhibit, which began April 15 and ended Sunday, displayed pieces that conveyed stories to viewers, with many of the artists drawing from personal experiences.

Christina DeHoff was one of those artists, and near the entrance of the gallery was the Kihei resident’s painting titled “A Prayer For Our Brothers.”

“It was kind of serendipitous,” she said at the gallery on Friday. “I spent time creating work for some of the galleries on Maui, so to have the opportunity to produce something purely from spirit was just an inspiration that I had, and it happened at a time where it all came together.”

The events surrounding her inspiration, though, were not of joyous origins.

In October 2012, Anthony Natividad, renowned nose flute player and original cast member of ‘Ulalena, died from a heart attack. He was only 48 years old.

“It was very unexpected,” DeHoff said.

In a written essay to accompany her painting, she explained that a memorial service with Natividad’s friends and family “deeply impacted” her.

“The men embraced, forehead to forehead and nose to nose in silence, and breathed together in honor of their friend’s life,” she wrote.

The Kihei resident, who lived off-and-on the island for the past six years and moved full-time three years ago from Maine, said the intimate bond between the men was foreign to her. Natividad, who was her first friend on Maui, helped her realize the fragility of life and love.

Having met him at a dance studio in Haiku, the Lahaina musician helped treat her for a physical health problem – which she declined to disclose – using sound healing.

“You put the instrument to somebody’s body and the vibrations have different tones that can have healing abilities on a cellular level,” she said.

Although they rarely connected after their first meeting six years ago, she would encounter him “always at the right time,” she said.

“He was very supportive of my work as an artist and seemed to feel the visions I had were important to share,” she wrote. “In the many moments of doubt I have had as an artist, Anthony helped me listen to my path.”

The 30-by-30-inch panel painting displays two Lahaina men, Ke’eaumoku Kapu and his son Kaulana Kapu, who knew Natividad and were at the memorial service.

“It took everything in me,” DeHoff said about asking the father and son to pose for her painting. “I was really nervous to approach them. I usually work with a lot of my female friends, so to approach a total stranger with something so personal was challenging.”

After arranging the shot and taking a picture of the two men, she went to work on the painting. She started with an acrylic base for texture, then added silver leafing to contribute metallic qualities to the Art Maui piece.

“It’s just by hand, so it’s very messy and your whole room is covered in metal when you’re done,” she said about the process. “But it’s fun.”

DeHoff finished the piece by painting the image itself with oil-based paints.

“The whole point of the metal leaf in this piece is that it’s intended to be the energy between them,” she said. “I wanted it to have a different effect based on where you’re standing.”

When asked if the painting was difficult to create due to the circumstances behind the piece, she said she would not use the word “difficult.”

“It feels powerful, emotional and purposeful, and meant to be,” she said. “I’m not afraid of the emotion that we have.”

DeHoff’s piece was selected from 555 works of art that were judged by Ron Kowalke, professor emeritus in the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Art Department. Of the 346 artists that submitted pieces, 123 artists had at least one piece selected.

As the largest juried exhibition in the state, the event has displayed 3,774 pieces since 1979. From that period, the exhibit has sold 139 works of art to the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, including six this year.

Three Baldwin High School seniors – Alexandra Underwood, Keisha Mateo and Ellissa Bio – were also awarded $2,000 scholarships for their works.

Event organizer Robert Glick said many of the pieces come from people who do art as a hobby or passion, and the exhibit allows them to not worry about the business surrounding the art world.

“In my opinion, what is so special about Art Maui is that it takes the gallery owner out of the picture,” he said on Friday. “If you have a piece in a gallery, the expectation from the owner is that it’s going to sell because they’re paying the rent and the mortgage and things like that. Art Maui is a venue where . . . it allows people to expand their creative parameters and there’s no pressure from Art Maui or anybody else that needs it to sell or be a commercial piece.”

Glick credited the exhibit’s volunteers and artists for their help in staging the event.

“It’s all volunteered, so it’s a tremendous effort folks put in all year long to make this happen,” he said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at