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Introducing Hawaii’s people

Fourth triennial Schaefer Portrait Challenge brings top artists from around the state, and their subjects, to Maui Arts & Cultural Center

February 5, 2012
By KEHAULANI CERIZO - Staff Writer ( , The Maui News

KAHULUI - Meet David, who's typically wearing a top hat and walking around Central Maui; and Parez Punaluu Kahikina, a native of Kalaupapa whose parents died from Hansen's disease; and Noemi Aguilar, a cherished wife and loving mother of two who lives on the Big Island.

Hawaii's real people, who each tell very real and relatable stories, are spending time at the 2012 Schaefer Portrait Challenge, on display at Maui Arts & Cultural Center's gallery through March 11. The fourth triennial exhibition features these portraits alongside 56 others, the works of 57 artists from Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii.

As one of the most well-attended shows at Schaefer International Gallery, the exhibition provides a chance to be introduced, or reintroduced, to people who make up Hawaii's melting pot.

Article Photos

Wayne Takazono, “Portrait of the Artist’s Mother”
The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

"It's about Hawaii and the people of Hawaii," said Michael Takemoto. "You are going to see people you recognize no matter what island you live on. . . . Personal connections will be made."

Takemoto, along with Sally French and Duane Preble, all accomplished artists in their own right, were jurors for this year's show. The three were tasked with traveling to each island to assess nearly 200 total submissions. The 2012 Challenge required that portrait subjects live and work in the state and have a significant connection to the artist, who also must reside in the islands.

Portraiture, which has its earliest documented forms in ancient Egypt, isn't always about re-creating the physical likeness of a person. For the Challenge, jurors look for confidence in the fine art technique, the artist's ability to convey a likeness without overworking the subject and the ability of the artist to move the viewer, according to organizers.

Fact Box


VOTE: Pick your favorite portrait and vote at Schaefer International Gallery through Feb. 17. The winning artist will be awarded the $5,000 Marian Freeman People's Choice Award, donated by Gage Schubert.

Results will be announced at 5 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center gallery.

HOURS: Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and before Castle Theater shows. Admission is free.


"To capture the personality and essence of the person is tough," said Takemoto, assistant professor of art at the University of Hawaii Maui College. "It requires a technical skill to do that. But to take it a step further, it may lack the substance or soul. We were looking at the technical and beyond, to see whether it accomplished a story."

Two distinctions are named with the triennial exhibition, which started in 2003. The Jurors' Choice Award of $15,000, donated by Carolyn and Jack Schaefer Gray, was given to Maui's Jonathan Yukio Clark during the opening reception Jan. 8. The $5,000 Marian Freeman People's Choice Award from Gage Schubert, determined by public vote, will be announced at 5 p.m. Feb. 18 at Schaefer. Gallery visitors may continue to vote during regular hours through Feb. 17.

Clark of Pukalani completed a double major in painting and East Asian studies at Washington University in St. Louis in 2009; he had graduated in 2004 from Seabury Hall. The young artist's work has appeared in several of the state's prestigious invitational exhibitions and is included in private collections, namely the Hawai'i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

The artist's winning portrait, "Grandma's Story," depicts Clark's grandmother, Catherine Yamada, whose search for education and opportunity brought her to Hawaii from her homeland of Japan more than a half-decade ago.

"From the start, I knew I wanted to do a portrait of her," Clark said. "She's always been a little shy and doesn't draw attention to herself. There's a lot of her story that I didn't know."

He said he interviewed his grandmother, who lives on Oahu, for the mixed media piece. Clark conceptualized and did sketches for more than a year; he began the bulk of the work last summer and finished in October.

Clark said his grandmother first saw the finished piece at the opening reception, the same day he was awarded the top honor.

"I think she was a little overwhelmed," he said. "She was crying. She's not the type of person to really cry. I think it meant a lot to her. There were so many people there; a lot of people were coming up to her and saying congratulations."

The young artist said he will use a portion of his award money to pursue a master's degree.

"The award seems so surreal," Clark said. "It's a huge honor. I am very, very grateful."

Much of Schaefer Portrait Challenge's success can be found in the overall picture that the show creates.

"It really captures the people of Hawaii," Clark said. "There's such a level of accomplishment coming through in the collective work."



Rose Adare, Dion 'Boyett' Aguilar, Gabrielle Anderman, Daniel Bilmes, Nitya Brighenti, Chris Campbell, Emily Carder, Mike Carroll, Hung Kwai Chan, Ken Charon, Jonathan Yukio Clark, Peter Shepard Cole, Hoaka Delos Reyes, Brentton Demello, Margaret Ezekiel, Stephen Freedman, Ingrid Frgeau, Janice Gail, Stephen Garnin, Lynne Garzino, Bob Getzen, Robert Glick, Tijana Graham, Roberta Griffith, Vince Hazen, Marlene Honma, Robb Jones, Linda Kane, Kathleen Kastles, Ken Kennell, Verdine Kong, Kirk Kurokawa, Howard Lapp, Dennis William Leatherman, Wilton Leauanae, Robert Lober, Susanne Long, Charlie Lyon, Michele Manning, Jacob Arthur Medina, Karen Mortensen, Gerald Murai, Pamela Neswald, Penny Nichols, Patrick Daniel Sarsfield, Boz Schurr, Kirsten Rae Simonsen, Anna Skaradzinska, Nancy Skrimstad, Roger B. Stephens, Wayne Takazono, Steve Vandervort, Albert Weight, Robert Weiss, Billy Welker, Natasha Young and Patricia Yu.



"They're amazing; they are unbelievable. The artists express what each person feels and brings it to life."


"It's incredible. I wish they had this every year. It reflects the unique qualities in both the artist and in their subjects. It really shows diversity of subject matter and medium. I won't vote for a favorite. I like bits and pieces of all of them.


"Like look at this one. I want to meet this guy."


"Neida (Bangerter, gallery director) always does a superb job."

- JEFF PRYOR, Waikapu

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at



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