Iwalani Kaluhiokalani, Opening Reception Galatea Fine Art, March 6, 2020
Written By Helen Canetta
Meeting local figurative artist Iwalani Kaluhiokalani in her cozy Brookline, MA studio feels like discovering her paintings for the very first time: An infectious and profuse energy instantly radiates, palpable both through her dynamic personality and through her ethereal oil paintings. In her new solo exhibit MAGIC on display this month at Galatea Fine Art Gallery, Iwalani celebrates as much as she chronicles the social and gregarious nature of humankind.
She also intends to underline humans’ innate fragility through clusters of small silhouettes in motion, dancing, floating, gracefully contorting, and appearing in and out of fantastical, panoramic landscapes and dominant skies.
Iwalani Kaluhiokalani, Rhythom of Earthy Delights, diptych, oil on canvas, 48 x 72 in.
One of the thematic concepts Kaluhiokalani yearned to explore was the boundaries, defined as a means to map the body and identity. Shadows randomly appearing and disappearing in the positive and negative space challenge our definition of identity. “I wanted to not suggest too much, but rather to make things appear out of ephemera,” Iwalani noted. Do genderless figures subtly morphing in the background evoke absence as much as presence of such characters? And isn’t absence another form of presence after all? “Can we exist as an absence?” Iwalani wonders. On a deeper level, these human shadows confront its viewers with a newly relevant question. “Do we really see people today?” wonders Iwalani.
The delicate and intimate connection that exists between humans in motion and their environment is another critical part of her narrative. Since her early childhood as a budding gymnast and dancer, to her current occupation as Pilates instructor, Iwalani has been fascinated by gestures and motion her entire life. “How we move and the way we move in relation to others helps shape and define our identity,” she writes.
Another fascinating element of Kaluhiokalani’s paintings is her lusciously floral palette. A Massachusetts native, Iwalani’s rich cultural influences stem from her father’s Hawaiian roots, combined with her mother’s Dutch-Indonesian heritage, and could account for the triumphant tone and tropical palette in her work.
Iwalani Kaluhiokalani, The Mending (Them Ending), oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in.
This month’s exhibit also features two separate works The Mending (Them Ending), oil on canvas, 20” x 24”, and Zones of Interdeterminacy, oil on canvas, 48” x 36,” combined on Damask paper (also created by the artist). This composition was a deliberate choice to reference the “lavish salon style decoration of Northern Europe in the late 1800’s,” says Iwalani. “I wanted to achieve a maximalist dialogue between interior and exterior thinking. By weaving together repetitions in the paintings with repetitions in the damask Rorschach test wallpaper design, my intention was to create an installation experience where you are confronted with your different perceptions of space through the mediums of ‘high’ art and ‘craft like’ art.”
Iwalani Kaluhiokalani, Zones of Interdeterminancy, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 in.
Iwalani credits American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) as an inspiration. Church was known for his large scale, dreamlike and majestic landscapes, waterfalls and sunsets. One splendid example of such a glorious color explosion is Kaluhiokalani‘s diptych Rhythm of Earthly Delights, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 each panel. Iwalani credits a considerable amount of color mixing for the weightless and ethereal quality of her paintings.