Jacqueline Rush Lee’s lifelong love of books has fueled her inspiration as a fine artist. Books not only serve as the medium for her work, but the art she creates with them leads both her audience and herself to explore themes of transformation.
"I’m interested in scrambling the formal arrangement of books to create a new narrative," says Lee, who petrifies books in the kiln, and stitches, folds and rolls pages to create sculptural pieces.
"I like taking something that’s symbolic to the culture and representing it in a new way."
Through Oct. 15, the international artist is showing her work alongside Casey Neumann and Madeleine Soder in "Tactile Repeat" at The Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center. The trio have produced pieces that use "the repetitive and intimate action of hand-stitching as a way to connect with and transform their materials," says the exhibit brochure.
New works by Casey Neumann, Jacqueline Rush Lee and Madeleine Soder
On exhibit: Through Oct. 15, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and until 6 p.m. Fridays
Where: The Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center, 999 Bishop St.
Call: 526-0232 or visit www.tcmhi.org
Swedish-born Soder explores materials that are "barely there, but still have the ability to hold space" through works formed from crocheting, hand-stitching and printed organza.
Neumann, who worked as a printer at HuiPress on Maui, creates pieces intended to relay a sensation similar to a blink or pulse. The artist is interested in the momentary awareness of a fleeting thought and attempts to capture that sensibility.
LEE WAS BORN in Northern Ireland and moved to Hawaii in 1993. She earned a master of fine arts degree in 2000 from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Lee says she enjoyed books as a young child and even wrote and illustrated her own stories.
"Books were intimate objects for me," she says.
Those deep ties continue today, and Lee feels a deep responsibility to the books she collects to make her art.
"I believe there’s mana in these books. There’s the spirit in them of the people who owned them, and I feel like they’ve been passed down. Now, it’s in my hands."
Lee usually pores through stacks at the Friends of the Kaneohe Library bookstore for her material. Her latest series employs small, flexible Asian books filled with Japanese, Chinese and Korean text.
"They’re pliable to work with and great for folding," says the artist.
The elegant pieces display lovely translucent pages filled with Asian text, and looped folds offer peeks at colorful illustrations. Long threads extend from stitchings to continue the lyrical line.
"A viewer must approach (these works) with their senses and intellect to create another story, encounter its physicality and reinterpret it," Lee says.
WATER TANKS COMMENT ON OUR CHANGING TIMES
Lone water tanks are a loaded image for Margo Ray, who grew up in Waimea on the Big Island, where ranchers built the large structures from the 1920s to ’60s. Ray fills an upstairs gallery space at First Hawaiian Center with an actual tank installation, plus mixed-media paintings of the tanks and other works, in "Between Worlds, Waters Flow," on exhibit through Oct. 15.
The artist’s documentation of water tanks spotlights a part of Hawaii’s history that is giving way to development. Ray refers to the circular structures as "templelike" spaces.
In her work, these spaces of solitude are commonly set among flora and fauna against a vast, vivid sky, though in some pieces, they sit amid tanks, explosives and airplanes.
Through the collective body of work, Ray hopes to convey "a world that is complex in its layered emotions and one that, while poetic in its expression, is at the same time a deeply rooted critique of the contemporary order of things." — Joleen Oshiro