Artist Statement October 12, 2008 When I was nine years old, in 1966, I wrote a letter to then Governor of Florida, Claude Kink, upset about the impact debris was having on sea life and sea birds as well as piling up locally on Dunedin Beach, where I grew up as a kid. He wrote back personally, a fancy letter with a gold state seal attached next to his signature. The Governor suggested that, being nine, my options may be limited, so he encouraged me to involve my fourth grade class to help with clean-up and spread the message to adults. My teacher, Mrs. Vetter, championed the idea upon reading the letter to my classmates: a perfect after school project. Though our thoughts were in the right place, upon arriving at the beach, the trail of debris stretched to eternity, an impossible task for twenty-eight people four feet tall. Huge land developers, many not residents of Florida, or at all regulated, acquired property after property from beachfront towns and locals for a song. Where a few cracker (local) cottages occupied a small parcel of land, in a year a towering condo development now supported thousands of tenants in one building. As gravity descended their waste and piped it directly into the ocean; no plan whatsoever for the present or future just grab the fast buck. Offshore oil drilling, along with regular spills killing massive amounts of ocean life was the talk of the day. Fast forward to Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i, 2004. I arrived on Kaua‘i and found much of the same behavior eroding the Garden Isle despite forty years of time to allow different solutions to take hold; especially regarding development. As a painter, nature, place and sometimes the collision of both appear to be a distinct characteristic in my work.
Exploring the role of urban nature with wry humor, pop culture and urban sprawl set to canvas stages of Los Angeles and New York has been my focus for over twenty years. Conveying nature in a contemporary sense allows nature to run rampant through my work on its own. Kaua‘i is nature and place combined to convey sheer amazement in seven million humbling years of evolution in the most iconic sense of self preservation as its own self and island world. Oceanfront property has been snatched up by mainland and off-island mega-developers from local Hawaiians for next to nothing. Hawaiians are locked out from beaches and areas open and sacred to its people for thousands of years, along with catastrophic ocean debris and the Superferry; bringing cars, invasive species, drugs, and probable death to protected species at sea; held at bay for now. We can only hope for a better outcome through diligent action and commitment, especially regarding development and protection for all animal and plant species now threatened. The paintings and drawings presented here are true stories encountered on Kaua‘i; where I plan to spend the rest of my days continuing this body of work where it takes me. I hope to continue to present my visual opinion through good work and personal technique; painting and drawing observations the micro-world of Kaua‘i strains to contain - also images of Aloha, impossible to overlook and daunting on Kaua‘i, especially when left alone. Mac James Anahola Bay Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i 2008
Curator Statement April 4, 2008 Mac James: From Under a Rock Mac James and I crawl out from underneath the same rock each day. Our inclination is to hide, but our intention is to seek, to understand being imperfect in an imperfect world. It’s not the human condition we study, but rather the condition humans have created. We have a common curiosity of the animals, plants, and space we all share. I understand Mac, barely know him as a person, deeply know him as a human. He is what I hope for when I imagine someone we need to explain this life, and who we want to help the world. Mac is by no means a leader, but an example we can only hope to follow. Mac is an observer, who thinks and feels carefully, who portrays what he discovers as something we can recognize, so we call him an artist. But I would more fittingly call Mac a scientist. Mac follows the process of someone steeped in science, observing the phenomena of his environment, questioning why, and hypothesizing how. Most artists deviate at this step and create what they feel to be true. This portrayal, however, wears the veil of self, of thought and philosophy. But Mac continues the process by investigating and analyzing until he can accurately reveal what he sees, with no artistic filter. The piece he creates is not so much art, but a model to help explain the implications of what we see. Mac never judges, accuses, or blames, as he know he’s part of
this imperfection. Rather, he dispassionately reveals where we are, what we’re doing, and how it’s affecting us, all of us. Mac does not offer answers, but asks his viewers a question. Asks them to observe, to see, to understand how we treat ourselves, others, and our place. Viewing a body of Mac’s work is like entering an immense researcher’s notebook. A sketchbook filled with illustrations and notations taken in the field in and around where Mac lives, both physically and mentally. I don’t feel as if I’m being educated, but rather allowed a rare glimpse into the working mind of a scholar. Mac’s work is intelligent and timely, with a spontaneous eye aimed at recording what’s happening, now. He leaves it to the viewer’s conscience to interpret the facts he reveals. And this is the essential power of Mac’s work: his gentle and caring guidance calmly asks us to look, his concerned and unaccusing image allows us to see, and with this knowledge, he and we can truly help the world. Mac will return to his rock, our rock, where I feel privileged to bump into him and his thoughts, and his images. Curator Statement L.J.C. (Linda) Shimoda Kaua’i Museum Art Gallery Director
Death By Plastic 2007 Oil + graphite on canvas 44” x 48”
Inscribed + painted on face – Death By Plastic – This Masked Booby is a natural born collector/purveyor like us all. Though selective he eats first and is not concerned with content, only the need to feed. A child’s plastic horse (tail-less and 3 legs) actually found in a mature adult. The ingestion of plastic debris kills ¾ of the new colony each year in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Another manmade catastrophe in the shadow of preservation…
Death By Plastic 2007 Oil + graphite on canvas 44” x 48” (detail)
Returned By The Sea (Glass Buoy) 2006 Oil + graphite on canvas (diptych) 32.5” x 19.5”
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Inscribed + painted on face – 5:30am Anahola Bay July 22 2006 Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i Returned By The Sea (Actual size). Hand blown fishing buoy washed ashore. The protective netting that kept this buoy afloat has long since dissolved in the sea while adrift for years.
Returned By The Sea (Glass Buoy) 2006 Oil + graphite on canvas (diptych) 32.5” x 19.5” (detail)
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Talk Story With A Plumeria Tree 2006-7 Oil + graphite on canvas 52” x 77”
Inscribed + painted on face – Talk Story with a Plumeria Tree. Just about to talk story. Past friends and enemies. Faces appear to tell story of the past. Night akua. So sweet.
Talk Story With A Plumeria Tree 2006-7 Oil + graphite on canvas 52” x 77” (detail)
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Tattooed Tiger Shark Story 2005 Oil + graphite on canvas mounted on veneer 48” x 84”
Backstory – The Tiger shark is never what the fisherman is after, but the sacred akua (spirit) to bring him luck in his quest for fishes; as are the implements shown to assist in the pursuit - hooks carved from bone or teeth, the mask lower right is an effigy the fisherman of long ago wore to further attract the lure of a catch. A prize tiger tooth, worn around the neck keeps the strength of the tiger akua close to heart.
Tattooed Tiger Shark Story 2005 Oil + graphite on canvas mounted on veneer 48” x 84” (detail)
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Kane Of Kaua‘i 2006 Oil + graphite on canvas mounted on veneer 49.5” x 50”
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Backstory – Kane was my good friend on Kaua‘i of deepest intensity and respect. His knowing gaze and intellect, quiet nature and “view from the top” when riding his gargantuan frame proved how lucky to be on Kaua‘i each time I got on him; or groomed his giant self, covered with mud from a hard storm the night before. Kane’s solid strong step and protective mana were pure power. My great fortune to help care for Kane on a daily basis for over three years gave us time to talk, laugh and weep. Now passed, Kane is a void never to be replaced but cherished for having had the luck to have known him so.
Kane Of Kaua‘i 2006 Oil + graphite on canvas mounted on veneer 49.5” x 50” (detail)
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The Twins 2008 Oil + graphite on canvas 60” x 45”
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Inscribed + painted on face – Whistle. These twins watch over Anahola Bay on Kaua‘i. Breakage from Iniki hurricane 15 years ago is evident and is part of their evolution. Ironwood skin is like nightmarchers huddled together for strength and mischief. Bark like iron armor invincible before nature. Iron root system helps to hold the beach together. The whistle on the wind is bright and clear as the needles collect the breezy trades.
The Twins 2008 Oil + graphite on canvas 60” x 45” (detail)
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Shark Fin Soup 2008 Oil + graphite on canvas 24â€? diameter
Backstory â€“ Each year millions of sharks of all varieties are harvested each year for their fins alone; to be used as decoration in a fancy bowl of soup marketed to the rich for up to four hundred dollars U.S. Sharks are depleting faster than they can multiply. Presence of sharks is a critical balance that must be maintained to all ocean eco-systems planetwide.
Shark Fin Soup 2008 Oil + graphite on canvas 24â€? diameter (detail)
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Malie (Calm) Water 2008 Oil + graphite on canvas 52” x 60”
Backstory – Clear, bright and ever in motion, the kaleidoscope of water in motion as light hits and dances. This drawn painting – pulling strokes from pigment below by scratching and drawing homage to the hypnotic effects of calm, yet moving water.
Malie Water 2008 Oil + graphite on canvas 52â€? x 60â€? (detail)
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104 Eyes of Alala 2008 Oil + graphite on canvas 32” x 47”
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Inscribed + painted on face – Alala (Hawaiian Crow) 52 are bred in captivity and 0 remain in the wild at this time. 11.23.07 on Kaua‘i. 104 Eyes of Alala telling story from above (numbered) 1-104 (eyes) Ohana only to Hawaii
104 Eyes of Alala 2008 Oil + graphite on canvas 32” x 47” (detail)
Kona Water 2008 Oil, graphite + Kona coffee on canvas 57.5” x 69.5”
Backstory – Three days of intense rain provokes the red mud from the hillside above to slide down to the river and be carried to the bay; like Kona coffee churning – my own coffee spilled across the canvas before starting the painting and was worked into the end result.
Kona Water 2008 Oil, graphite + Kona coffee on canvas 57.5” x 69.5” (detail)
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U Go Boy! 2008 Oil + graphite on canvas 56” x 79”
Inscribed + painted on face – Pounded, whipped, starved, preyed upon, carved into, and admired by Time, evolving while alone – U Go Boy!
U Go Boy! 2008 Oil + graphite on canvas 56” x 79” (detail)
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Kidnapped 2008 Oil + graphite on canvas 44” x 48”
Inscribed + painted on face – Each year 2,000,000 (two million) Native and Ohana fishes and invertebrae are kidnapped and shipped all over the world from the Hawaiian Islands. Less than 40% survive the capture to tank at the pet shop.
Kidnapped 2008 Oil + graphite on canvas 44â€? x 48â€? (detail)
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Tiger By The Tail 2008 Oil + graphite on canvas 4” x 18”
Inscribed + painted on face – Tiger By the Tail Backstory – Great stealth of his own accord and design, our Tiger drags the remains of the day - a slow death of pain and angst.
Is Comin’ 2006 Graphite on feed tag 5” x 7.75”
True Hula 2006 Graphite on feed tag 5.5” x 7.125”
Shark Tooth Mandala 2006 Graphite on feed tag 7.75” x 5”
Lava 2006 Graphite on feed tag 5” x 7.75”
Tiger Notes 2006 Graphite on feed tag 7.125” x 5”
Tiger Tattoo Study 2006 Graphite on feed tag 5” x 8.3125”
Study for a Royal Robe 2008 Ink on paper 8” x 10”
Study for a Royal Collar 2008 Ink on paper 8” x 10”
Death By Sunshine 2008 Ink on paper 8” x 10”