Freestyle: Ocean art in Waikiki’s Greenroom
BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / email@example.com
There’s a certain joy that comes across in ocean art. I guess it’s connected to the real-life experience: Spend a lot of time in or near the ocean and you’ll take on a particular kind of peace — but not without effort.
We all know that surfing includes an element of the unexpected, even danger. And even lounging surfside means you need to watch out for ocean debris, jellyfish and the occasional rogue wave! Live through that, and you deserve to smile.
The Greenroom galleries in Waikiki and Japan channel the bright side of beach life, bringing love of the ocean, art and Hawaii together in one space. Along the way, they also raise the international profile of Hawaii-based artists such as Clark Little, a photographer known for his from-the-water shots of Oahu’s waves, and Heather Brown, a painter and printmaker who has designed poster art for the Triple Crown of Surfing and Jack Johnson’s Kokua Festival.
Starting with one gallery at 2350 Kalakaua Ave. (near what’s left of the old International Market Place), which opened in 2010, Greenroom has expanded, with a new space in the Sheraton Waikiki. The Waikiki gallery opened last month.
Greenroom itself is a reference to the ocean. Laarni Gedo, an artist who helps staff the new gallery at the Sheraton Waikiki, said she thinks of it as the tube of a wave, especially when a surfer’s inside it.
The galleries are an outgrowth of the annual Greenroom Festival in Japan, which take place this weekend in Yokohama. Jimmy Cliff and Kauai’s Donavon Frankenreiter are among the headliners.
The surf-themed art and music event comes with a message: love the ocean. Photos of past festivals show bands on stage, flanked by banners saying “Love My Beach” and “Save Beach.” Environmental organizations including the Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Peoples and Coral Network are invited to participate.
“Through music and art, our aim is to convey ocean and beach lifestyles and culture and maintain precious beaches for our children,” Naoki Kamayachi, owner and organizer of the Greenroom Festival, said in a statement from the gallery.
The success of the Greenroom Festival prompted Kamayachi to start ocean-themed galleries in Shibuya and Kamakura, Japan. In 2010, Kamayachi joined with Jun Yoshimura, owner of Good Art Animation in Waikiki (and guitarist-vocalist for Honolulu rock band Linus) to open a Greenroom Hawaii gallery on Kalakaua.
The gallery’s artists are thought of as ambassadors who share their talents, “but also their passion for the ocean and the importance of protecting it,” Gedo said.
Gedo, a tanned and avid surfer herself, has been seriously working as an artist for just over five years, after leaving a job at the University of Hawaii to devote herself more fully to painting. Her small-scale, closely imagined ocean landscapes are shown in the Sheraton Waikiki gallery.
“I get to paint what I love,” she said, simply.
BROWN is attending the Greenroom Festival in Japan for a sixth year. It’s been a fruitful relationship for her: Many Japanese nationals discovered her art there, as they did for Little.
As Brown has become more well known to Japanese fans, they increasingly seek her out, forming long lines for signed prints both in Japan and in Honolulu.
Greenroom Hawaii also features Japanese artists Koji Toyoda, active in that country’s surf-art scene since the 1990s, Yusuke Hanai and Sho Watanabe.
Kat Reeder and the artists known as Welzie, The Captain Surfs and Two Crows (who works with surfboard material) are based in Hawaii. California surf artists Andy Davis, Jeff Canham, Susan Wickstrand and Tyler Warren are also represented. Most show original work and prints, including woodblock and canvas prints.
Along with the original art, Greenroom Hawaii features handmade, beach-themed jewelry and accessories, including hats and bags by local artists and labels.
“It somehow makes sense and is a big honor to be able to share a little bit of Japan’s surf art where it all began, here in Waikiki,” Greenroom general manager Yohei Otani said in a statement released along with the Sheraton Waikiki opening.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.