Newly opened Pueo Gallery enters Paia’s art scene with fresh collection
Incredulous mountainous waves, curling over themselves as if executing the most lithe acrobatic tumble, unfurling towards the beach at Peahi on Maui’s North Shore, along with visions of mother whales frolicking in ocean waters with their young calves have become ubiquitous images people associate with the Valley Isle — you can find them everywhere — framed in galleries, in magazines, movies and TV shows.
But wait. Before becoming too jaded thinking you’ve seen one wave/whale photo you’ve seen them all, venture into free-spirited Paia Town and discover the newly opened family-owned Pueo Gallery, a refreshing, quaint boutique featuring a nicely curated selection of art from Maui’s distinctive mixed-media artist Taryn Alessandro and glassblower Evan Schauss, as well as Oregon artist Erik Abel who favors bold, geometric designs.
The layout of the space is inviting and not in the least bit intimidating, welcoming visitors in with a promised respite from the relentless heat of summer. Perhaps it’s the air conditioner cooling the space, but more likely it’s the abundance of water imagery compliments of the featured photographer and gallery owner Lyle Krannichfeld, who together with his parents, Don and Linda Zacharias, took a leap of faith to fulfill the dreams of his 17-year-old self when he wandered along Front Street, fantasizing about owning a gallery and living here while vacationing on Maui.
On island for six years now, Krannichfeld remembers visiting here regularly as a young man.
“I very distinctly remember the first time we came,” he recalls. “We got here in the dark. The doors to the plane opened — you couldn’t see anything — and I could feel the air. I thought, ‘OK, this is where I’m supposed to be.’ I’d never experienced anything like that.”
It took some 20 years spent in lucrative but unfulling sales managerial jobs before Krannichfeld chucked 70 hour work weeks and relocated here. His parents preceded him by a few weeks, fulfilling their dream to retire here.
“Photography is something I always wanted to do. I don’t know why I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that it was something I could do,” he wonders aloud. “I would think [about professional photographers], ‘Those people are so lucky that they get to do that, live their dream.’ “
He acknowledges he had a lot of people, including his parents, encouraging him to pursue his passion, but like many, he didn’t think he could do something so bold — after all, he had a good job in the corporate world that he didn’t want to just throw away. He was an adult, for goodness sakes, and responsible.
Fate frequently steps in to help souls such as him. The company he worked for was going through changes and not in a good way, he was spending half the week in Washington, half in Oregon, flying to Alaska once or twice a month. He hadn’t been to Maui in several years, and had even sold his camera gear. He frequently found himself driving home Friday nights at 1 a.m., mad at the world, when one Friday his thoughts took a detour. By the time he made it home, he had a new plan figured out. He gave his 30 days notice to the company the following Monday and moved out here 15 days later.
Drawing upon his photography skills learned at Butte College in northern California and from taking photos for fun for some 20 years, he found work here at Pacific Whale Foundation. That’s when he fell in love with whales.
“I had never had experience with them, had never seen a whale before I walked in to Pacific Whale Foundation, and I managed to convince them to give me a job photographing for them,” he chuckles sheepishly.
Krannichfeld worked with PWF for about a year, then someone suggested he sell his photos at the Maui Swap Meet on Saturday mornings.
“I remember the first swap meet show I ever did — it was buy a couple of tables, buy a tent, go mat some prints, see what happens. I had no idea what to expect. I went in hoping to make $200. I did something like $1,200 in sales. At the end of the day, I realized, ‘I can actually do this,’ “ he smiles, remembering that experience.
It’s no wonder his images sold well that first day. Looking at the prints on display in the gallery — large format images of curling waves, woodsy settings with mossy trees and bubbling streams and crystal blue skies — they arrest even the most artistically uneducated eye. Whale undersides glow white as if lit from within, as does the white froth from swirling eddys and crashing walls of water.
Photography is a deceptive art form — it looks easy — anyone can take photographs, but not everyone makes art from their pictures. Upon seeing Krannichfeld’s work, it is immediately obvious he has a special gift. His perspective of his subject matter opens up a magical world of beauty to the viewer.
Part of the credit for that goes to the aluminum metal and Lumachrome acrylic that he prints on. His photos appear to be lit from behind, but they’re not.
“We had somebody come in yesterday insisting they were illuminated,” points out Linda.
“I thought they were maybe going to fight me over it,” laughs Krannichfeld.
Reproduction in this newspaper or even in art brochures or magazines will not do the photos justice. You have to see them in person. The clarity of the images and the detail captured vaults these pieces into a category all their own.
Krannichfeld admits a prime motivator for him to become a photographer was he saw it as a vehicle to allow him to travel and see the world. He acknowledges his world was quite small until he reached his 20s and 30s, and realized his dream to travel and make a living with his camera.
“It is still a large part of the appeal — to have life experiences and grow,” he explains. “I love sharing these views with people that they otherwise may never see, like the whale and Jaws shots taken from the water.”
To obtain the whale shots, Krannichfeld free dives, although he is certified in scuba diving. For images above the water surface, he charters boats.
People might recognize his images not just from the Maui Swap Meet, but also from the twice-weekly show of his works on the boardwalk along Airport Beach at Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort. With the help of his fiance, Becky Frank, many fans of his work got to know him from those shows. He notes more than 95 percent of his sales are from visiting tourists who want to take home an image of Hawaii.
Even with the opening of the gallery, Frank will continue the KOR show from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays. Krannichfeld notes he has a steady stream of return customers from the Westin and wants to be accessible for them.
While talking about the gallery opening, Krannichfeld became thoughtful as he acknowledged his good fortune.
“I think typically, the path you’re told to follow is to start [a new endeavor] part-time, build up your business, but keep your day job — but that’s not my style. I’ve never been able to do anything like that, half-hearted. I just throw myself in, especially with such a creative thing. So I just left, without looking back.”
He admits he had heard stories about moving to Maui, many of which might have deterred someone of lesser determination. But for him, he’s found happiness with his decision to change his life, his family is here (including Frank and daughter Luci), and now the dream he had as a 17-year-old of owning a gallery and living on Maui has been realized.
“It’s like they say, Maui either accepts you or spits you out. I’ve had really amazing experiences. Everybody has been really great.
“I’ve always loved sharing my perspective. We all see things in a different way. We can all look at the exact same thing, sitting on the same beach and we all are completely focused on different things. I think everybody has a unique perspective. I don’t think mine is any better than anybody else’s, but it’s different.”
* Catherine Kenar can be reached at email@example.com.
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96 Hana Hwy. • Paia
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Daily