Alumna Artist Unveils Work in Honolulu

Los Angeles-based artist Susan Maddux ’87 unveils her latest work in the unique exhibit, “A Kind of Homecoming,” on display at Arts & Letters Nu‘uanu through Dec. 5. Created during a six-week return to the Islands, the folded canvas pieces capture color and movement, painting and sculpture and the feeling of returning home.

This is the first time Maddux has created art on the Island since moving away after graduation. During her six weeks in Hawai‘i, Maddux set up an art studio in the Mānoa house she grew up in and drew inspiration from O‘ahu. In the piece entitled DAWN / MĀNOA, for instance, soft washes of colors and gentle folds of canvas evoke the emotions she felt watching the sunrise in the valley each morning.

She was also influenced by Hawai‘i artists Page Chang, Solomon Enos and Tamara Rigney, who created a floral display for the exhibit’s opening from plants foraged in Mānoa in response to Maddux’s Mānoa piece. “It was so interesting to see how they each respond in their own unique ways to Hawai‘i,” she said. “They made me realize how exciting the art being made in Hawai‘i right now really is.”

The alumna’s exhibit, which was featured on Hawaii Public Radio, came about in part through a series of Punahou connections. Arts & Letters Nu‘uanu founders Wei Fang and Maile Meyer ’75, a community advocate who owns Na Mea Hawai‘i, learned of Maddux through alumna Lesa Griffith ’80. The duo invited Maddux for an artist residency, then tapped Griffith to curate the exhibit, a first for the Honolulu communications professional.

“Maile and Lesa were instrumental in making this happen,” Maddux said. “I’m so grateful to Maile for her part in creating such a vibrant arts and culture space in Honolulu and to Lesa for her tireless work as curator and all around support.”

Another Punahou connection who contributed a lot of “earthy inspiration” was Mark Hamamoto ’80, who runs Mohala Farms in Waialua. “It’s where I worked alongside my mother, harvesting the most beautiful greens and gazing up at the Wai‘anae range, and helped to prepare a group meal from fresh, just-picked ingredients. That added such a sense of connection and joy to my stay,” Maddux said.

The artist plans to carry the inspiration gleaned during her Island residency to her next endeavors in L.A., such as incorporating natural elements into her work, as she did with palm fronds and coconut husks here, to create a connection to place.

“Being able to weave in materials from the environment really enhances my ability to tell stories and evoke memories with my work and to bring it to a place of tactile, physical connection,” she said. “I am thinking a lot about how this can be a part of my work moving forward.”

Curator Lesa Griffith ’80 with artist Susan Maddux ’87 at Arts & Letters Nu‘uanu.

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