‘Serenely Proliferating’: Kahilu exhibits works by Kaori Ukaji

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"Serenely Proliferating" is seen at the East Hawaii Cultural Center in Hilo. (Andrzej Kramarz/Special to West Hawaii Today)
"Pneuma Plate/Skin," artistʻs skin on glass. (Andrzej Kramarz/Special to West Hawaii Today)
A detailed view of "Incarnadine II" is pictured. (Courtesy Photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)
"Pneuma Plate/Skin," artistʻs skin on glass. (Courtesy Photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)
A detailed via of "Proliferation II" is pictured. (Courtesy Photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Kahilu Exhibits presents a solo show by internationally recognized artist Kaori Ukaji opening Oct. 26 and running through Dec. 20.

An opening reception and artist’s walk-through is slated 5-7 p.m. on Thursday at the Waimea-based Kahilu Theatre Galleries.

A no host bar and light pupu will be offered during the reception. Work on display will be Ukaji’s multimedia installation, “Serenely Proliferating,” which spans both galleries at the Kahilu Theatre.

Japan-born artist Ukaji, first came to Hawaii in 1994 while on a trip around the world.

“At the time I was exhibiting in Japan,” said Ukaji. “One day, I decided to pack up and take a yearlong vacation. I went everywhere from Hong Kong to Australia. Then, when I arrived in Hawaii, somehow I felt as if I had come home.”

Ukaji is an installation artist who creates immersive environments with simple materials. She frequently chooses a singular color, idea and medium, which for many years has been graphite on paper. For the past three years, she has been drawn to the color red, and has focused her work around ideas about her physical body, and the sensuality and possibilities of womanhood.

Her most recent installation, “Serenely Proliferating,” is completely incarnadine and white. Incarnadine is bright crimson, or a pinkish red, and it saturates the works in the show, which are made of tissue, cloth, skin and thread. These include large, hanging embroidered canvases with fronts and backs exposed, displaying the delicate stitching of thousands upon thousands of thread loops.

A floor platform presents the work, “Incarnadine II,” a lush expanse of painstakingly folded, crimson dyed white bath tissue. “Pneuma Plate/Skin,” sits on a white pedestal, and is created with skin Ukaji peeled from calluses on her feet and then dyed a rich orange-red, casts graceful shadows from the glass plate that it is mounted on. There is a serene, meditative quality to the installation, and the patient, labor intensive processes are visibly present.

“Repetitive motion brings me to the deep inner side of myself, and brings me to a higher level of being,” said Ukaji.

Ukaji had a cancer scare last year, and it prompted self-examination.

In a May, 2017 interview with Hawaii Public Radio, she said, “At that time I was living with ­­­some kind of fear, I may have cancer. Eventually that feeling became probably I have cancer, kind of feeling. It ended up I didn’t have it but those kinds of things I was thinking about for a couple of months.”

For Ukaji, each piece in “Serenely Proliferating” is a rapturous hymn to her body.

“I only make pieces of what I am now,” she said. “I’m 52, and my body is changing physically, and also mentally, as a woman. Just thinking about my whole life, who I am.”

“We so are pleased to bring this exquisite, challenging, contemporary art to Kamuela,” said Sally Lundburg, Kahilu Exhibits coordinator. “Kaori’s installations present a deeply moving personal expression, work that has been recognized at the highest levels throughout the state of Hawaii.”

Last year, Ukaji was selected as one of four artists for the 2017 Artists of Hawaii exhibition at Honolulu Museum of Art in Oahu, a prestigious exhibition that has showcased the talents of island artists since 1950. Recent awards from the HMA include The Roselle Davenport Award for Artistic Excellence, The Reuben Tam Award, and The Jim Winters Award for 3D Design. She was a featured artist in the Fifth Contemporary Museum Biennial of Hawaii artists on Oahu, and has had solo exhibitions in Hawaii, New York, Australia and Japan. Her work resides in the permanent collections of the Omi International Art Center in New York; the Francis Greenberg Collection in New York; the Asian American Art Center in New York; and Subaru Observatory. In addition to being a practicing artist, Ukahi is a faculty member in the art program at Hawaii Community College.

Kahilu Galleries are free and open to the public 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday, as well as during all performances at Kahilu Theatre.

Info: Vist www.kahilutheatre.org or call 885-6868.