KAILUA-KONA — Tucked away in a studio in Kainaliu, William Wingert wasn’t able to experience the true satisfaction of being an artist. For Wingert, to be a real artist, his paintings needed to be seen by someone other than himself.
“Art is never really complete until it’s being viewed,” Wingert said. “The completion of art is when it has an audience.”
Wingert hasn’t had the opportunity to take his art to the next level — a real art exhibition. Until recently. And the opportunity has come in an unlikely place.
At West Hawaii Community Health Center — Kealakehe, Wingert currently has his first one-man show on display in the health center’s waiting rooms. The walls of the rooms are covered with his portraits, figures and landscape paintings, giving him a new opportunity to show his talents, and potentially sell some artwork in the process.
Wingert’s one-man show, which runs through the end of May, is just one part of the health center’s bigger, more permanent project of turning the health center into a health and art center.
“The idea of hosting local artists is, we are a very nontraditional venue but we believe everyone deserves art, just like everyone deserves health care,” said Natasha Ala, West Hawaii Community Health Center director of marketing and development. “Our patients are people who probably wouldn’t traditionally go to an art exhibition or an art gallery, so we’re bringing the art to them.”
Wingert has previously been a juror for an annual juried art show that is a collaboration with the health center and the Donkey Mill Art Center. After the fourth annual show, “Art is Healing,” ended in October, Ala offered Wingert the opportunity to become the health center’s featured solo artist for a few months.
“His work appeals to a lot of people,” Ala said. “I think people will recognize the people in his portraits, so it will have a familiar feeling to people.”
The annual juried show was created in 2015 with the goal of creating a permanent art collection for the health center. A fifth annual show will be held in October. The exhibition, as well as the space inside the health center’s waiting rooms, are open for all Big Island artists to submit their work.
While a submission date for the fifth annual juried show later this year hasn’t been opened yet, Ala said the time of submission usually falls around Labor Day.
Ala considers art to be an important part of the healing process for sick and injured patients across the country.
“I’ve seen statistics that actually show that in the hospitals and health centers that have landscape artwork, the patients recover faster,” Ala said.
For Wingert, the one-man show is a success as both exposure for him as an artist and something to add to his resume. Wingert has been drawing his entire life, through elementary school to art school, but started his career as a professional artist much later than most.
A carpenter for 30 years in California and New Hampshire, it wasn’t until after his daughter had become an adult and moved out of his home that he was able to move to Hawaii in 2010 and start a new phase in life.
His life as an artist has been slowly rolling forward since. Wingert does live painting in front of Holualoa Gallery during the First Friday Art-After-Dark event, held every month in Holualoa. His art can be found in galleries across the island, including Gallery of Great Things in Waimea, the Harbor Gallery in Kawaihae and Holualoa Gallery.
Wingert believes his paintings resonate with people because he’s able to capture the emotions and personalities of the people he paints and, with landscapes as well, is able to make people feel something when they look at his paintings.
“The land here is beautiful, and that is amazing to try and capture,” Wingert said. “I like to convey the feeling that I’m getting from something in the artwork and give that to someone else. With portraits, it’s that part of it combined with the perception I have of the person. It’s a funny kind of a feeling, but I can get a fairly strong impression of the personality and the type of person, so I try to have that in a portrait.”
Wingert’s ambition for his art career goes beyond the West Hawaii Community Health Center, but for now, it’s a step in the right direction.
“I would love to go bigger. That’s the only ambition, to go out and up. This was a great opportunity, and the opening was just out of this world. I’ve never felt like that before,” Wingert said. “I started very late to put myself out there as an artist, but I’ve always known I’m an artist. It feels good to actually be doing that kind of work, even though I started very late professionally.
“But this is a step up. I can put this in my bio now: One-man show. Even though it’s a health center, it’s still a viable, one-man show.”