History, art and culture
Katie Sagal

The Honolulu Museum of Art

For anyone familiar with the art of Paul Gauguin, known for his long career spent painting the scenery and people of Tahiti, it may come as no surprise that other Polynesian locales like Hawaii are also the inspiration for exquisite works of art. But fortunately, it doesn’t take a visit to the Louvre to tour tropically-inspired paintings and photographs – our very own Oahu boasts a fine collection of art museums that host such works, including the Honolulu Museum of Art and the partner Spalding House. Travelers to Honolulu this summer looking for special artistic Oahu attractions will get a particular treat at the Honolulu Museum of Art: a one-of-a-kind special exhibit, “Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: The Hawai’i Exhibit.” Curated with a special attention to both the divergences and similarities between their individual aesthetics, this is the first ever exhibit to combine the work of these two artistic legends in one display. The exhibit is brand new, and will run through next year, so you do have time to visit. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to stop by as soon as you’re in Oahu to experience this rare collection.

Image of Mountain, Nature, Outdoors, Art, Painting, Georgia O'Keeffe "Waterfall — No. III — Iao Valley" 1939
Now, some of you out there may be thinking – O’Keeffe and Adams were best known for their depictions of the mainland, of the sparse American southwest and rolling Midwest landscapes. And of course, these are the examples that often come to mind. But both artists had a period of time when they visited Hawaii, were drawn to its wild beauty, and created a series of works reflecting their attraction. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. O’Keeffe’s love of the intimacy of flowers and plants, with Adams’ fascination with majestic skies and landscapes both have plenty to draw upon in the lush islands of Hawaii. On your visit to Hawaii, you’ll be just as inspired by the beauty and diversity of Oahu attractions as these artists.
Image of Art, Painting, Nature, Outdoors, Sea, Water, Dog, Newfoundland, Promontory, Shoreline, Scenery, Georgia O'Keeffe "Black Lava Bridge, Hana Coast No. 2," 1939
O’Keeffe visited Hawaii in 1939 with the intention of creating works of art to be used in advertisements by the Dole Pineapple Company. Originally in Hawaii for business, she soon fell in love with its wilderness and found herself staying for nine weeks on several different islands. The thematic focus of her work from those nine weeks is both familiar and very different from earlier works – depicting exotic flowers, volcanic landscapes, and minute details of everyday objects. While pieces from this period in O’Keeffe’s life are located in museums across the country (including some in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts), this curated exhibit has the 12 of the most famous of such works.
Image of Soil, Root, Hot Tub, Ansel Adams "Roots, Foster Garden, Hawaii," 1948
Adams visited Hawaii not long after in 1948, and also on business. Commissioned to take photographs of National Parks (an assignment also responsible for some of his iconic Yosemite photos), he was so entranced by the inhabitants and scenery of the Hawaiian Islands that he returned again on another assignment in 1957. This exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art showcases 56 photographs taken between those two trips, some landscapes and some portraits of people, each with Adams’ trademark starkness and austerity. The image shown here (left) is a perfect example of the ways in which Adams infused the unique flora of Hawaii with his renowned photographic aesthetic to produce a work of art so gorgeous out of something so simple as a tree root. This special exhibit is an absolute must-see Oahu attraction for art lovers – and take it from an expert, you won’t want to miss this unique collection of Hawaii-inspired art. The exhibit is available July 18, 2013 – January 12, 2014.
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