UH Hilo artists explore “Fear of the Unknown” at Hawai‘i State Art Museum exhibit

At the exhibit entitled “Fear of the Unknown,” the works on display by Professor of Art Michael Marshal and UH Hilo alumna Tiana Honda are On Bird Songs and Minu Ga Hana「見ぬが花」respectively.

By Susan Enright.

Tiana Honda pictured
Tiana Honda
Michael Marshall pictured
Michael Marshall

University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Professor of Art Michael Marshall and artist Tiana Honda, a UH Hilo alumna who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art and a minor in Japanese studies, are two in a group of UH artists investigating the “Fear of the Unknown” in an exhibit at the Hawaiʻi State Art Museum in Honolulu.

Art pieces by 14 UH Mānoa and UH Hilo alumni and five pieces from faculty (three of whom are also alumni) from UH Mānoa, UH Hilo, and Kapi‘olani Community College are part of the exhibit that opened July 7 exploring enigmatic artworks from the Art in Public Places Program of the Hawaiʻi State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. Some pieces are recently added artworks on display to the public for the first time. The exhibit encourages viewers to “take a closer look and find details that help reveal narratives of exploration, change and discovery.”

Hawai‘i was the first state in the U.S. to establish a percent-for-art law, by legislatively accessing one percent of the construction cost of new state buildings to fund the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (1965) and the Art in Public Places Program (1967).

At the current exhibit, “Fear of the Unknown,” the works on display by Marshal and Honda are On Bird Songs and Minu Ga Hana「見ぬが花」respectively.

Michael Marshall: On Bird Songs

Black and white, lines of acoustics and images laid horizontally across the piece like a musical score.
On Bird Songs. Michael Marshall. Mixed Media: graphite, ink, watercolor, and plaster on Rives BFK paper. 26″ x 19″. 2016. (Courtesy image from the artist)

Marshall, who was born is St. Louis, Missouri, and has taught at UH Hilo since 1984, says his piece in the “Fear of the Unknown” exhibit, titled On Bird Songs and of mixed media, is inspired by two overlapping artists-in-residence at UH Hilo.

The first inspiration came from Senior Fulbright Scholar from New Zealand Cathryn Shine, who headed the “Hawaiian Endangered Species Print Project” that brought together local Hawai‘i-based artists, scientists, academics, faculty, and students in the fall of 2015 to develop a series of printed artworks.

Marshall was also inspired by Julietta Aquilera, a visiting professor of creative media who collaborated with UH Mānoa and UH Hilo on the UH System’s newly-launched data visualization and CyberCANOE technology. (The acronym CyberCANOE stands for “Cyber Enabled Collaboration Analysis Navigation and Observation Environment,” and enables users from varied disciplines and locations to work together and communicate with each other on collaborative projects.) Aquilera was in-residence at UH from October 2015 through October 2016 and also provided support for the UH Hilo spring 2016 course on data visualization.

“I was sitting in on a discussion with Julietta that turned to the question of how one physically measures coral, (and) the term ‘rugosity’ was used,” explains Marshall about how his curiosity was piqued pondering the textures of rugosity: wrinkles, creases, and ridges. “My takeaway was later applied to listening to field recordings of upland forest bird songs from ‘apapane, ‘i‘iwi, ‘amakihi from (Professor of Biology) Patrick Hart‘s lab. (I was) listening and visualizing a way to express the modulation and dimension of sound moving in space.” (Learn more about Hart’s LOHE Bioaccoustics Lab.)

Marshall has completed a dozen works in his bird song series, “but know that I have only lightly scratched the surface of possibilities,” he says.

Tiana Honda: Minu Ga Hana「見ぬが花」

Etched image of person's head emerging from water, eyes above water but nose below, with botanicals coming out of the top of their detaching skull, hand also coming out of the water with what looks like roots coming up out of their hand. Colors are dark, grays and rusts.
Minu Ga Hana「見ぬが花」. Tiana Honda. Intaglio etching, aquatint, and digital inkjet. 22½” x 16”. 2019. (Courtesy image from the artist)

UH Hilo alumna Tiana Nanayo Ku‘uleialoha Honda was born and raised in Hilo on Hawai‘i Island. She received her bachelor of arts in art with a minor in Japanese studies in 2019. She received her master in fine arts in visual art from the University of Kansas in 2023 and currently lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

Honda’s piece in the “Fear of the Unknown” exhibit is Minu Ga Hana「見ぬが花」in the medium of intaglio etching, aquatint, and digital inkjet and completed in 2019.

Honda says that at the time of creating this print, she sought out a lot of guidance from UH Hilo Professor of Art Jon Goebel.

“The technical process for this print was difficult for me to do on my own,” Honda says. “As a result of his help, I was able to successfully combine the tradition of intaglio printmaking with the use of inkjet digital color printing.”

She adds that the inspiration for this print stems from her own visual representation of the Japanese proverb “minu ga hana,” or “seeing is not a flower.”

“What the saying means is that things will never be quite as you imagine it will be so you are better off not seeing it, as reality will never be able to compete with the imagination,” she explains. “I chose flowers with meanings that I thought could relate to this saying. I chose the epigea to represent budding, forsythia for anticipation, poppies for imagination, and lucerne for life.”

The exhibit

The “Fear of the Unknown” exhibit opened on July 7, 2023, at the Hawai‘i State Art Museum, which is located inside the No. 1 Capitol District Building in downtown Honolulu. The museum is open 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sundays. The closing date of the “Fear of the Unknown” exhibit is to be determined.

Learn more at UH System News.

Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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