On the Scene: Cancer survivor Leni Knight shares her story through art
Leni Knight, who is 61 and a cancer survivor, is partnering with Hawaii recording artist Meleana Brown to present “Hold On,” an art exhibition, auction and concert on Saturday, in the Cupola Gallery and Bamboo Garden of Stage Restaurant in the Honolulu Design Center.
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For most of her life Leni Acosta Knight was a businesswoman and international entrepreneur. Born in the Philippines, a Hawaii resident from the age of 16, Knight’s entrepreneurial interests took her from success in Honolulu to opportunities in Los Angeles and West Africa, and eventually back to Hawaii. Six years ago, with the encouragement of her life partner, she became an artist.
Although Knight started painting as a hobby, she found there was commercial interest in her work. When galleries displayed her paintings, they sold. Art became a career, and she looked for ways that her art could help fund good works for others — cancer survivors in particular.
Knight, who is 61 and a cancer survivor, is partnering with Hawaii recording artist Meleana Brown to present “Hold On,” an art exhibition, auction and concert on Saturday, in the Cupola Gallery and Bamboo Garden of Stage Restaurant in the Honolulu Design Center. Knight is donating 60% of the proceeds from sales of her artwork to the Women’s Cancer Center at the Kapiolani Health Foundation and the UH-West Oahu Title IX Program through the University of Hawai‘i Foundation. For tickets, go to 808ne.ws/hold-on. For Knight’s website, visit leniknight.com.
What inspires you to paint?
I went through a lot (battling cancer) and I am telling my story through art. Two weeks after I had my surgery one of my very best friends passed away very, very suddenly. She had been there for me, holding my hand, so she is definitely in one of the paintings I’ve done. In one of the paintings her hand is actually the model for it.
How do you describe your approach to painting?
It’s a combination of classical realism and abstract expressionism. Most of the bodies in my paintings are realistic but there are abstract elements. And it’s a little bit whimsical. I want to evoke a lot of emotion, but mostly hope.
What do you have in mind for your next project?
Most of my paintings gravitate to women and their empowerment, so my next art project is titled, “Empowering Men.” My father — he passed away 25 years ago — was the greatest dad in the universe, and it feels right to empower (other) men to be stronger, gentler and to be protectors of women from violence of any kind, most especially domestic and sexual violence.
What is something about you that might surprise people?
I drive a black Lincoln Blackwood pickup truck. The Ford dealer told me they were only built one year, and are three of them on Oahu. It really works well for me because the truck bed is the right size to carry my paintings and it has the lid to cover them, but it is also a “male magnet.” Men see it and they want to buy it. I’ll be at the gas station and it’s, “Hey, sister, where’d you get your car?” The guy who owns one of the other two actually parked in front of my house in a regular car because his friends had told him they’d seen his wife — a “small Asian woman” — driving his Blackwood in my neighborhood and gave him the address. His wife wasn’t allowed to drive his Blackwood, and he wondered what she was doing at that address. He wasn’t stalking me, he was curious. I told him, “I’m not your wife, and I own (a Blackwood) too,” and we both laughed about it.
Do you have a long-term goal?
I’d like to be an inspiration to people and encourage them to follow their dreams. I didn’t know that being an artist was my dream until it happened.