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Two Maui artists to create art pieces for Honolulu Museum show

Maui artists Gwen Arkin and Andy Behrle have been selected to create new artworks for the Honolulu Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition, “Artists of Hawai’i 2020,” inspired by traditional methods that investigate burning issues in Hawaii.

Their works will be on display for the exhibition at the museum from Sept. 12 to Jan. 17, 2021.

The artists were chosen for the exhibition, which is held every three years, by co-curators Marlene Siu, exhibition manager at museum art school, and Taylour Chang, curator of film and performance, following an open-call submission process.

“The artists selected for Artists of Hawai’i 2020 encompass a broad spectrum of levels within their artistic careers — from emerging artists who have never shown before to artists who are featured in national and international collections that are unified through their bold voices and innovative practices,” Siu said.

The topics expressed through the artwork cover timely and controversial issues that face the people of Hawaii and the world, the museum said.

“With these 20 artists, we couldn’t have asked for a more boundary-pushing lineup of visionaries and community leaders.” Chang said. “We’re incredibly excited to embark on this yearlong journey with the artists to support their visions, to challenge people’s expectations and to reimagine what’s possible for Hawaii through art.”

Arkin’s project will use cyanotype, a photographic process, to create images of threatened species of edible limu native to Hawaiian waters to address the issue of climate change and global warming. The cyanotype process utilizes a mixture of iron compounds that turn blue when exposed to light, much like the origins of blueprint architectural drawings. Arkin’s artwork is inspired by the work of 19th century British botanist, Anna Atkins, who is regarded as the first person to publish a book of photographic prints — also cyanotypes of algae — in 1843.

The artist, who teaches photography and design at UH-Maui College, will be creating an installation of hanging limu-printed cyanotypes on silk to emulate an undersea limu garden.

“The resulting prints display the otherworldly life forms of the sea in exquisite detail, revealing their minute cellular makeup,” the museum news release says. “Her goal is to inspire fresh perspectives, awareness, and engagement with these humble ocean life forms, while reminding the viewer that beauty beckons from even the most remote and unseen corners of our glorious planet.”

Behrle’s project will reimagine a Hawaiian flag quilt from the museum’s collection using digital video footage of the waters of the eight major Hawaiian Islands. He will use footage collected mauka to makai on Maui, Hawaii island and Kauai for his “reimagined” Ku’u Hae Aloha (My Beloved Flag) quilt.

Over the next four months, he will make visits to historical cultural sites on Lanai, Oahu, Molokai, Niihau and Kahoolawe to collect more footage for his project.

“By merging the tradition of quilting and imagery of the Hawaiian Kingdom flag with videos from the natural environment and digital video editing processes, this project reflects upon the geologic and human histories of our home state,” the museum news release said. “Behrle sees this project as one in which the past and future collide through the natural and digital worlds through the tapestry of water sites and issues in our state.”

Behrle arrived in the islands just over a year ago and has been creating site-specific video installations around the world over the past decade. Last September, Behrle projected his re-creation of a window from Wailuku’s St. Anthony Church lost to arson in 1977 onto the side of the Historic Iao Theater during September’s First Friday celebration.