Once you enter the "Artistic Alchemy" exhibition in Makawao, don't think you can leave unchanged.
The Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center themed show is full of magic, mystery and the exploration of transformation -a central theme of alchemy, an ancient practice that aims to turn basic metals into gold.
Thirty-two artists from around Hawaii and the rest of the nation were selected from more than 200 entires for their interpretation of transformation and artistic alchemy. And their work, which is on display at the center in Makawao, takes on many forms and genres.
The mundane matter of penicillium is turned into a quasi-panacea of penicillin. Personal growth is detailed in a mixed-media book of wood and handmade paper. And even a plaster depiction of a Haleakala cow pie is used to discuss environmental rebirth.
Ultimately, exhibitions coordinator Marcy Lynn, said the pieces were chosen if they "distilled down to the essence of what we were looking for."
The oil and mixed-media piece of local artist Melissa Chimera, for example, depicts an ancient statuette from the Bronze Age that was discovered along the Levantine coast of what is now Lebanon. In addition to the visually compelling figure against detailed patterns, the story behind the work spurs discussion of mystery, spirituality and the uncertainty of origin.
"To me, she is the epitome of an artist," Lynn said. "Where she got these rich stories, that deepens the viewers' understanding of her work."
Artist Beth Robinson created an imaginative glimpse into a disporportioned, backward world where giant goldfish make ships dwarf in comparison.
"As a dyslexic reader, this is an invitation to see the books as I do and the blurred boundary between the story of the book and the imagination of the mind reading it," Robinson wrote in her artist's statement. "In Japan, the Carp symbolizes success owning to its ability to leap formidable rapids and the Samurai, the perfect alchemist."
Well-known island artist George Allan's piece called "Metamorphosis" was inspired on his daily hike through the ranch land of Haleakala. "I observe the regular routine of the many cows that inhabit the area," he wrote. "Of course, I'm aware of the cow pies that they distribute copiously, and it was a no-brainer to associate this basic material that fertilizes and enables the plethora of growth, sometimes beautiful, with the outcome that appears to be a miraculous alchemistical event."
The visual mysteries behind each artist's "alchemistical event" - along with the thought-provoking stories to their transformations - will be sure to unlock magic for each viewer.
"Artistic Alchemy" extends through Nov. 8 at the Hui, 2841 Baldwin Ave. The show is free and open to the public during gallery hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday. For information, call 572-2750 or visit www.huinoeau.com
- Kehaulani Cerizo