Laurie Sumiye began her six-month resident artist program with fishcake and The BoxJelly on October 1st, 2016. Although we're sad to see another artist go, we are very excited with the work she has accomplished here and what she has planned for the future.
The BoxJelly will be hosting Laurie's upcoming show "Thirty-six Views of Mauna Kea," opening Thursday, March 30th. Inspired by Utagawa Hiroshige's famous "Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji," Laurie will be presenting artistic views of Hawaii's Mauna Kea. Through various mediums, from drawings and paintings, to sculptures and a video installation, she will portray images of native flora and fauna, people, and landscapes. For this show, along with Hiroshige, she has drawn inspiration from David Hockney, Ellsworth Kelly, Matisse, and, she says, "a wee bit of Warhol."
The show will run until September 30, 2017. Opening reception is 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at The BoxJelly.
We were able to pull her away from her environmental super heroics to tell us about what she's been up to and what she has in store for life after fishcake and The BoxJelly. Read on to see what she had to say!
- so, laurie, what is it you do? tell us about the art you create. how did it all begin?
I am a storyteller who makes art, my practice is very multidisciplinary. A lot of my work is ecologically-minded, I suppose it’s because I think about social issues and how we should be aware of our humanity being part of the natural world, not apart from it. I was born and raised in Mililani, [and] like many, I went away to school and worked where there were more opportunities. I lived on the mainland where I went to school and worked for about 18 years. I returned to Hawaii to work on a documentary film. I've been back for about 3 years now. I like to ask questions, seek knowledge and tell other people’s stories. I guess I've always liked art and writing stories, so it's pretty cool that I still get to do it for a living now!
- why do you turn to endangered species as your source of inspiration?
I'm obsessed with birds, especially the rare kinds that are hard to see. Because I am from Hawaii, when I found out that we live in the Endangered Species Capital of the World, I felt the need to tell the story of Hawaii's birds because so many have already gone extinct. I also wanted to learn more about the different kinds of plants and animals that are found here and no where else in the world. I learn best by observing and drawing, so I started drawing from books about native Hawaiian plants. Now it has spilled over to a greater variety of endemic flora and fauna. I love science so it's fun to learn about animals and plants, what makes them unique and interesting.
- what has been/ are your most popular projects? why do you think they are popular?
I don't really know what is "most popular." I know some people like my bird things, but plant people like my plant things. I've probably got the most attention for my animated documentary films.
- what is your favorite project? why?
My favorite project is always my current project. Right now that would be "Thirty-six Views of Mauna Kea," the series of drawings and paintings I'm producing for the art exhibition as part of my artist-in-residence here at The Box Jelly and fishcake. It's based on Utagawa Hiroshige's infamous series of ukiyo-e prints "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji."
- what is your favorite species to work with, and why?
Palila! “A Paradise Lost,” the documentary film I've been working on for the past three years, is about the Palila, a critically endangered finch on the brink of extinction. Most people have never heard of it, but I'm hoping to raise awareness about this cute yellow bird and how its survival reflects upon us as human beings. We as a species have a responsibility to protect the Earth and take care of the natural world, and members of it that are most vulnerable. The story is fascinating... it started with one person, deciding this small bird needed saving in the 1970s, started a lawsuit using the newly created Endangered Species Act to remove game mammals from its habitat. The court case is still ongoing nearly 40 years later, and I'm delving into the bitter conflict between hunters and environmentalists.
- how do you perform your research?
Well, I will attempt to digest my research process into a few bytes since I am a research nerd and can talk for hours about this. Basically, I devour everything I can find about what I'm learning about—reading books, watching videos, listening to podcasts, interviews, etc.— then "purge" it through the art making. I also try to talk to people as first-person resources. I love learning from people and getting inspiration from them, I could probably write a book (or make a documentary) on the subject by the end. In terms of my art process, I spend a lot of time thinking and sketching before executing an idea. I like having a sense of what and why I'm making something before jumping right in... I liken it to knowing where you're headed to on a map before starting up the car. I tend to work very fast once I know where I'm going.
- what is your favorite thing about creating at the boxjelly and fishcake?
The creative community! I have met so many intelligent, highly-creative folks with brilliant minds and ideas during my time. It's like a lab or salon where people can just talk about anything and get together to collaborate, think, make, and invent. I really feel like Rechung, Maura, and Keiko have created a special place for us misfit toys in Hawaii, they "get" what kind of space creates community and good vibes to make inspired work. Plus, fishcake is such a beautiful, comfortable place to arrive to work every morning, I wish my living space felt this good.
- tell us about upcoming projects you have planned for the future.
Well, I'm looking forward to some R&R after the show with my upcoming trip to Japan in April to see the cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji. I'll do some drawings and watercolors on that trip. An exciting new project that came out of this residency is a project with fishcake's incredibly talented fashion designer, Rumi Murakami. Her workspace is adjacent to mine, so over time we found out we share similar artistic sensibilities. From "talking story" about our love of simple Japanese design, the natural outgrowth of that was to work on something together. I will be creating the textile designs for the fabric that she'll be working with. So even if technically my residency is over at the end of March, I still have an excuse to hang out and work at The Box Jelly and fishcake!
art opening: "thirty-six views of mauna kea" by laurie sumiye
light refreshments and hors d'oeuvres will be served.
exhibition runs from march 30th to september 30th, 2017
located @ theboxjelly
307a kamani st, honolulu, HI, 96814
viewing hours are monday - friday 8a - 8p | sat 11a - 4p
questions? email us info@theboxjelly or call 808.769.6921 | email@example.com or call 808.593.1231
words + interview by sarah moore