A large oil painting by the late Madge Tennent hanging in Schaefer International Gallery at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center took a journey to get there that was almost as colorful as the painting itself.
The larger-than-life-size work showing a dancing woman in a swirl of bright pinks, blues and reds is part of the gallery’s current He Makana (“A Gift”) exhibit, continuing through Dec. 23. It is presented by the Gertrude Mary Joan Damon Haig Collection of Hawaiian Art, Paintings, and Prints and concentrates on three giants of 20th-century island painting: Lionel Walden and D. Howard Hitchcock, along with Tennent.
Cynthia Conrad, a cool artist in her own right, attended the exhibit opening with her husband, Jerry Labb, and played sleuth about the origins of the painting. She reached out to the artist’s granddaughter, Madge Tennant Walls, a former Maui and Oahu resident now living on the Mainland.
“Interestingly, the painting of the woman in the blue and pink holoku’u was given to my mother by my grandmother and it hung in our living room for many decades. I literally grew up underneath it!” wrote Madge.
“Then when my grandparents died, each of us five children was given one of the big oils. We drew straws and my brother Paul, who lives in San Francisco, received this one.
“About 12 years ago he sold it in order to purchase his and his wife’s flat in the city. Then just last June I visited the Hawaii State Art Gallery in Honolulu and saw Paul’s painting there.
“Perhaps the person who purchased it willed it to the gallery — just my guess.
“Anyway Paul was delighted to learn that the picture is on public display, and Granny would have been pleased as well. She often said that she wanted most of all for her pictures to be on public display for the people of Hawaii to enjoy.
“Another thing I heard her say, more than once, is that she wanted to be known as an artist, not as a woman artist.”
Theresa Papanicholas from Honolulu spoke about the painting at the opening reception, which featured music by the always enticing Hula Honeys. She said conservation of Madge Tennent paintings is quite a challenge, Cynthia reports. “The paint is so thick (at times 3 inches deep) that large chunks sometimes fall off.”
Cynthia also attended Roselani Place’s 15th Anniversary Garden Party & Open House Friday organized by Marketing Director Diane Alba-Means and staff where Uluwehi Guerrero with Halau Hula Kauluokala, Glenn Foster, Bobbie Joe Curley & Howard Miyake performed.
“Happy residents and guests enjoyed refreshments and won door prizes outdoors under the lush plumeria trees. Maui Economic Opportunity’s Debbie Cabebe and Gay Sibonga were seen mingling with the crowd,” Cynthia writes.
Having become sort of a snowbird in reverse for the last three years, spending the autumns with our daughter’s family in Tucson, Ariz., I’m getting acclimated to experiencing Maui’s change of season and the holidays vicariously.
Topping the list of stuff I’m sorry to miss this year is the Dec. 8 appearance by Billy Collins in the Merwin Conservancy’s Green Room Salon series in McCoy Studio Theater at the MACC. Collins, like the conservancy’s namesake, Haiku resident W.S. Merwin, is a former U.S. poet laureate (2001-2003) among all his other accolades, and was described by The New York Times as “the most popular poet in America.”
I would especially recommend his work, which often causes unexpected smiles, to people who think they don’t like or understand poetry. His literary creations are more like stuff you think about yourself . . . he just says it better.
There’s nothing I can add to the epiphanies he causes in his listeners, other than to say tickets are only $25; $10 for students with ID.
For details, visit merwinconservancy.org.
A group of obon dancers was among the tens of thousands of folks of all ages parading through Tucson on Sunday night in the 28th annual All Souls Procession. Their faces were painted with distinctive skeleton masks; many wore elaborate costumes or wielded floats and effigies inspired by the traditional Mexican observance of Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Enhanced by moving LED light strands, the procession was both solemn and festive as it snaked through downtown Tucson under a full moon in the inky sky. Many of the marchers carried mementos of departed ancestors — a theme reminiscent of the Japanese bon dances on Maui every summer weekend.
It’s amazing to keep being reminded that the more deeply you delve into any one culture, the more you encounter what’s universal to all cultures.
* Rick Chatenever, award-winning former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and documentary scriptwriter/producer. Contact him at email@example.com.