The evening began with a sip of sparkling wine, a bite of a prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and a long, loving look at Carmen Gardner’s “Kaleidoscopic Caldera”. Someone mentions in passing that this piece is a branching out for the artist and that the woman’s work is phenomenal. They stay for a moment and then move on to another work of art.
These people are taking their time, dropping a comment here and picking up a warm cheese crisp there as more wine is poured. They are contemplating which work they will buy since their presence at this private affair is their financial commitment to do so. They are honored benefactors, a small selection of patrons from a cherished invitation list and they have this exclusive night to themselves to dine amid the juried art collection of Art Maui 2011 showcasing at the Schaefer International Gallery at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
The night’s host is Tim Garcia, Board Member and Chair of Art Maui’s Purchase Pledge Preview Dinner, who faced additional challenges when pulling this event together because more art shows were pushed into February and as a result, everyone was vying for the same attentions. Nevertheless, his belief is that people buy experiences and this dinner has always been particularly special.
“It should be a wonderful night,” he promises. “Art is fun, food is fun. To me this dinner is a celebration.”
Moving throughout the exhibit, he soon invites everyone to the tables in the gallery’s center where wall panels form a wide embrace for them to dine within a more intimate setting of paintings, sculpture, glass and wood works. In one painting, a blue-hued oil by Rik Fitch titled “Charter”, the boat captain seems to have caught tonight’s catch of delicately baked opakapaka while in another piece, a ceramic and bronze sculpture by Tom Faught titled “Pele’s Breath Ha”, is a visual reminder for everyone to breathe between courses — of which there are four, each with a wine pairing or coffee.
Daniel Southmayd and Chef Ralph Giles of Vineyard Food Company have done well. They know many of the people in attendance and have geared the menu accordingly. Earlier they had served a selection of pupus that included foie gras on toast points, eggplant caviar, and an assortment of spiced and candied nuts that are now being followed by warm lobster chowder and an arugula salad adorned with seared, sliced pears, blue cheese and walnuts. An offering of braised short ribs in a porcini-prune sauce accompanies the opakapaka, along with butternut squash risotto and wilted spinach. For dessert, they have whipped up a creamy, chocolate zabaglione with local Kula strawberries in a reduced balsamic drizzle.
Meanwhile Jim Powlan of Chambers & Chambers Wine Merchants continues to pour. First it was a J Cuvee 20, then a Morgan Winery Chardonnay, and last a pinot noir from Foxen Winery. As a result, the evening is getting lively and the patrons are playfully enjoying the gifts given them from Art Maui.
One woman leaves her table to saunter back to Kathleen Alexander’s “Ha’iku Paka Ua”, a framed watercolor of yellow and pink plumeria. It is the water droplets, she says, that so attracts her. As an artist herself, she knows firsthand how hard it is to paint them on petals.
Tonight she has bought a couple of pieces and says, “Every year I am surprised by Art Maui and every year it is different. We’ve attended this dinner several years in a row and although I’ve never entered my own work, I am more and more enthused.”
A gentleman, still seated, watches his wife make their purchases and says, “We normally go for more photographs and bowls…it’s all here. Our feeling is that you should get things that make you feel good. It (Art Maui) is refreshing.”
Pleased with what he is hearing, Art Maui’s President Jefferson Stillwell feels the show looks fittingly beautiful but admits every show has an aspect of chaos. The controversy for 2011 was over larger installation pieces, so the Board is now working on some guidelines and asking a variety of artists for suggestions.
“We have to be attentive to all,” he states while looking around the gallery in wonder, adding that there truly is a lot of nationally and internationally recognized talent on Maui.
He nods, for instance, toward Jim Stewart’s oil on canvas titled “Encounters” and says he especially likes the energy captured in it and that George Berezovsky’s “Rhapsody”, a mixed media, is ideal for Art Maui’s publicity image in 2012.
It was his first-round pick for the committee who made the final selection after three rounds of judging. Stillwell believes they made an excellent choice because, “One, it’s not a painting. Two, it’s not a pottery piece and three, from a graphics point of view, it’s really good for the media.”
Stillwell smiles and then turns his attention to a man who is making his final walk through the gallery just as another couple is heard saying that the evening has been more than spectacular and that Art Maui has pushed the envelope with this dinner and show. The woman, in particular, is very happy since she was fortunate to have one of her two entered pieces selected for the exhibit.
She explains that her plastic sculpture “Meditation in Green” is a transitional piece and is in a more ethereal phase somewhere between her previous, more explicit works and where she is going with her recyclable art.
“It is a metaphor for our man-made world,” she says. “We are all evolving.”
So too it would seem is Art Maui itself, for it has continued to evolve over the last 33 years in an ever-growing and much more competitive market. It has also been flexible enough to face impending issues with an inquisitive attitude and still caters to its most-valued patrons in unique and refreshing ways; such as it has done with its Purchase Pledge Preview Dinner.
Chef Giles sums it up, “Food is not so unlike art…foie gras is controversial and risotto is temperamental… This night gave me the opportunity to create a palette using the tongue and mouth as the final brush. They taste all the flavors and are the judges if it is well put together.”
Which is how this night appears to be, especially when one parting guest looks back over her shoulder at the gallery and says that she can’t wait to see what Art Maui looks like next year.
~ By Elaine Gallant, 2011
To request a private invitation to Art Maui’s Purchase Pledge Preview Dinner, contact Art Maui directly through this website or its Board members, or while visiting the gallery during Art Maui exhibit hours 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM, March 6 – April 2, 2011.
For more information on Vineyard Food Company go to: www.vineyardfoodcompany.com
For more information on Chambers & Chambers Wine Merchants go to: www.chamberswines.com
For any of the artists mentioned, search on this website
Thanks to Chris Scharein for photos from the evening