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Coloring with care

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Artist Kent West taught himself "pysanky," a batik process that originated in the Ukraine. He creates traditional and contemporary designs on hollow ostrich, goose and duck eggs.
  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Artist Kent West taught himself "pysanky," a batik process that originated in the Ukraine. He creates traditional and contemporary designs on hollow ostrich, goose and duck eggs.
  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Artist Kent West taught himself "pysanky," a batik process that originated in the Ukraine. He creates traditional and contemporary designs on hollow ostrich, goose and duck eggs.
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You just never know where you’ll find your calling. For egg artist Kent West, it came 25 years ago via an article in the April 1972 issue of National Geographic magazine.

The story featured a centuries-old Ukrainian art form called "pysanky," a batik process implemented on eggs. West read and reread the article, teaching himself the entire process to create the intricate artwork.

Today, West sits at the storefront picture window of the Color Me Devine showroom and gallery in Chinatown, where he draws on, waxes and dyes ostrich, goose and duck eggs as passers-by take a peek. The gallery is exhibiting a collection of his work in "Of Fragile Origin," running through Dec. 2.

‘OF FRAGILE ORIGIN’

On exhibit: Through Dec. 3, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays to Fridays

Where: Color Me Devine gallery, 918-B Smith St.

Call: 772-0283 or visit www.eggsactlyinhawaii.com

 

"Eggs are revered around the world for symbolizing life: circle of life, new life, transformation," the artist says. "When you add to that the colors and symbology, the eggs can embody lots of messages."

Traditional pysanky utilizes such ornamentation as flowers, stars, triangles, dots and diamonds, each bearing specific meanings. Flowers denote qualities of womanhood, such as elegance, wisdom and beauty, says West, while diamonds represent knowledge and a spiral star symbolizes the sun.

Pysanky eggs are given as gifts in Ukraine and traditionally were displayed during Easter in baskets and taken to church to be blessed. According to the Ukrainian Museum in New York City, "the intricately colored eggs were … considered to be a talisman, a protector against evil, as well as harbingers of good."

West decorates his eggs, purchased from a farm in California, with traditional Ukrainian designs as well as his own creations. A Sept. 11, 2001, pysanky he designed depicts a phoenix rising and human figures of every hue linked hand in hand around the circumference of the egg. Other eggs are decorated with specific color schemes or images for specific holidays, including a multicolored Mardi Gras egg and Christmas eggs bearing poinsettia flowers and snowflakes. West also utilizes traditional geometric motifs that reflect a Polynesian color scheme and sensibility.

"The potential for expression is out of this world," he says.

Though the hollowed-out eggshells are somewhat fragile canvases, West admits he occasionally allows visitors to hold the works.

"Eggs have a good energy everyone identifies with," he says. "Maybe it’s because we all come from eggs."

 

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