Freestyle: Remembering a creative spirit
BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / email@example.com
It’s been 30 years since the islands lost Wayne Kaumualii Westlake. The talented, adventurous and spirited poet drew on his Hawaiian heritage, classical and Pacific Rim traditions and avant-garde sources to produce a substantial, influential body of work in a life cut short by an auto accident near his home in Volcano.
‘DOWN ON THE SIDEWALK IN WAIKIKI’
Art invitational and CD launch
» Where: Gallery Iolani, Windward Community College
The poet/artist continues to inspire and influence Hawaii artists, who remember him with admiration. On Friday, June 20, an exhibit opens in his honor. Musicians, artists, poets and writers will gather for “Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki,” a visual-art exhibit and CD launch with music, at Gallery Iolani, Windward Community College.
“His creative spirit continues to inspire new works and initiatives,” said fellow poet Richard Hamasaki of Honolulu, aka Red Flea, who is participating in this tribute.
At the event, the CD “Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki, Songs from Wayne Kaumualii Westlake’s Poems” will be unveiled. It includes 26 original songs by musicians ranging from Aotearoa/New Zealand and Hawaii to Argentina. After the reception, the CD will be available online at nativebookshawaii.com. Participating artists include those who have received international recognition, including avant-garde musician/poet Fred Ho (1957-2014).
Painting, photography, multimedia, digital art, ceramics, intaglio and collage are part of the ongoing visual-arts exhibit, up for examination through July 3. As inspired by Westlake, some works are reflective, some anger-inspired, some charged by a sense of loss connected to changes wrought in Hawaii by colonialism and development.
Artists participating include Kapulani Landgraf, whose work is pictured here, and Drew Broderick, who operates Kakaako’s SPF Projects. (Broderick’s artist’s statement: “Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki: Tourist money. / Hawaiian accessory. / Shooting range, / swim with dolphins. / Go Home. No Home. / Aloha from Paradise. / Aloha from Hell. / Sun. / Burn.”)
Works by Jan Becket, Kauka de Silva, April A.H. Drexel, Mark Hamasaki, Keiko Hatano, Kupaa Hee, Imaikalani Kalahele, Colin Lee, Michael D. Marshall, Carl F.K. Pao (who portrays Westlake’s entire poem, “Paid by the Sea,” in Pao’s “abstracted text style”), John Pule, Tagi Qolouvaki, Shinichi Takahashi, Cory Kamehanaokala Holt, Taum Maikaʻi Tubbs and Westlake himself will be displayed.
BORN ON MAUI and raised on O‘ahu, where he attended Punahou School, Westlake earned his B.A. in Chinese studies at the University of Hawai‘i. At the time of his death in 1984, his peers believe he was at the height of his poetic career, translating Taoist literature and Japanese haiku, prolifically writing and publishing his own works, and influencing succeeding generations of creatives.
Just five years ago, the University of Hawaii Press published “Westlake: Poems by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake (1947-1984).” The material was sourced from manuscripts that had been recovered by Westlake’s companion and literary executor, Mei-Li M. Siy. This welcome volume brought a greater share of Westlake’s creative contributions to light, since at his death, only a 32-page collection of his poetry had been published.
Find out more about this inspirational poet and see what contemporary artists have been inspired to create by his influence at “Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki.”
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.