‘The Golden Thread,’ seven decades of work by the Waimea artist, opens next week.
Pam Woolway - The Garden Island | Thursday, June 10 2010
In her studio, artist Kathleen Adair Brown with ‘The Day the Queen Set up Residence in the City of Refuge,’ 2007, Xerox, egg tempera collage on archival paper, 26 by 38 inches.
Photo by Pam Woolway/The Garden Island
PO‘IPU — Poetry, legend and myth are made manifest with ink and pigment in the works of Waimea artist Kathleen Adair Brown. Seven decades of drawings, paintings and sculpted boxes will be part of “The Golden Thread,” her one-woman exhibition opening with an artist’s reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Galerie 103 in Kukui‘ula Village.
A virtual shrine to the creative process, Adair Brown’s uniquely-vertical home rises like a spiral staircase with every available inch of floor and wall devoted to art. Chinese, Greek and Hawaiian figures vie for reverence as one ascends the narrow stairwell. Her small living room is consumed by a four-by-five-foot table displaying, “I Am Grieved by the War,” a collage of a Chinese emperor looking from a window frame into woods filled with wolves.
He’s in his study — this man who has the wisdom. He looks out and cannot sleep,” she said.
Stories. Adair Brown mines the works of poets Tu Fu, Li Po and Omar Khyyam; lifting sultry descriptions to translate into a tale of her own making.
“The images Tu Fu paints with words are so graphic,” she said.
She follows what she calls, “the golden thread” in poetry, history and literature.
“My work is that ‘golden thread’ made visible,” she wrote in her artist’s statement.
“I could never just sit and paint a thing — the tree, the flower, the person — (nature) does it better than I could ever do it,” she said.
Her process is methodical, culling characters from books to tell a story inspired by literature. From a sketch she makes Xerox copies in different sizes.
“They are the characters in the story I am telling. To tell the story I can move the figures around before pasting them down,” she said.
“There’s this composition that moves you. Then you look closer and discover all these layers.” said Galerie 103 Director Bruna Stude, who discovered Adair Brown’s paintings five years ago at a Kaua‘i Society of Artists show. “Her work leapt out from a hundred pieces in the space.”
On the Xerox copies Adair Brown experiments with colors — employing dry pastel and watercolor, over which she brushes an egg-yolk wash.
“That finishing wash returns the depth and vibrancy of the watercolor’s original wetness and also reveals the mystery that lies within pastel,” she wrote in her artist’s statement.
Also on display for this exhibition will be the many renditions of torn and painted figures used in her narratives. One wall of Galerie 103 will be devoted to the evolution of drawings on their way to becoming parts of larger visions.
Pieces of the inspiring verse are sometimes scribbled into the painting. A favorite piece of hers, “Three Ships Came Sailing,” is one of a series depicting Chinese prostitutes on pleasure boats, “weeping tears of eye black,” she quotes from a Tu Fu poem.
“Sometimes the painting doesn’t say it all,” she said. “They need the words.”
Born in Hollywood, Calif. in 1921, she and her husband moved to the islands in the ‘70s, making the leap from O‘ahu to Kaua‘i just after Hurricane ‘Iniki. Adair Brown received her master’s degree in fine arts from Mills College in Oakland, Calif. in 1968. Recognized with multiple awards and honors, she has exhibited with KSA. Her work has also become part of the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts public collection.