Artist beads a visceral memory of family and nature
Inside Kimberlin Blackburn’s ginger scented studio in Kapa‘a, radiant goddesses and glittering palm trees assembled from millions of glass beads, wire and wood surround the artist like amulets from a journey through a sacred land. Listening to Blackburn describe a life that has thematically informed her multi-media work over three decades, is like watching a great weaver extract pattern from chaos. From textile design to installation sculpture, photographic and book assemblage to painting, Blackburn’s work may be varied in medium, but the story told is consistently personal, reflecting a dedication to her family history and deep love of the land. Blackburn’s work has been exhibited in hundreds of shows, published by Artweek and housed in the Smithsonian’s prestigious Renwick Gallery collection — a third generation Kauaian, she continues to challenge both content and form in her expressive and passionate work.
TKimberlin Blackburn’s work is available locally. For more information visit the artist’s Web site at www.akimberlinblackburn.com.
A. Kimberlin Blackburn is a sculptor and multi-media artist who lives on the Hawai'ian island of Kauai. She was born in Honolulu, studied studio art at Rutgers University in New Jersey and then returned to Hawai'i, where she works out of a studio overlooking her husband's family farm in the mountains of Kauai. She works with a variety of materials including wood, glass beads, ribbons, ropes, fabric, film, paint and inks. Her art has been widely exhibited, has won numerous awards, and is part of the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC and the Hawai'i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.
In an interview in American Style magazine, Blackburn talked about the farm as a source of artistic inspiration: “Nature’s duality of beauty and devastation always compels me. The water moving through the land, nourishing, carvng, flooding. I imagine the farmer as the heroine or hero nourishing generations of people.
She also finds inspiration in Hawai'i's vivid mix of cultures, and in the traditional stories rooted in Kauai's dramatic landscape. "In nature, I can see/feel the energy -- the spirit(s) -- the joy sparkles in the light and in the dark under the canopy. For me it sings out , I get to dance with them and work with the light & color of the glass beads.
My works are visual stories about spiritual questing, women, men, mountains, water, life. I am delighted with the concept that everything relates to each other, perhaps even 'talks' to one another. I'm exploring dreams, elements of the sacred, stories, and my sense of wonderment of the world's beauty. Carving and beading are a focused meditation. My current imagery is related to the garden, farms and mother nature's divine plants and elemental magic."
ART; ALL THAT GLITTERS ISN'T ALWAYS GOLD
By VIVIEN RAYNOR, Published: May 29, 1983
TWO towns, two shows: In Plainfield, the Tweed Gallery, 112 East Front Street, is having one of its round-ups under the title ''All that Glitters'' (through June 18); in Princeton, there is a solo exhibition by Donald Localio at the Princeton Gallery of Fine Art, 8 Chambers Street (through June 16).
The mix at Tweed - as usual, it is laced with some famous names - doesn't really live up to its title, literally or metaphorically. In fact, its organizer, Sally Swenson, who is also an exhibitor, seems to have made her choices with no special idea in mind.
The selection of the works of 24 artists ranges predictably from items in paper and fabric, variously treated, to paintings, sculpture, constructions, collages, prints and photographs.
It's an overcrowded display that lends support to the hunch that the esthetic sense of artists too often goes no further than the edges of their own work. And unlike the last Tweed gathering witnessed by this reviewer - on that occasion, Richard Haas, the curator, effected a fairly smooth blend of celebrities and aspirants -the ''names'' this time look very much like the come-on they are.
But if all that glitters is not gold, some of it - to pursue the metaphor -is at least gold-plated. For example, Blaise Batko's double popsicle carved from orange alabaster and impaled on wooden sticks is a shocking thing to do to beautiful stone, but it's amusing and clever just the same. So is the artist's melting Hershey bar in black soapstone.
Both, mounted on pedestals faced with mirrors, relate neatly to the nearby conceits of Lucas Samaras, the old Pop master. These involve the word ''draw'' expressed in plaster squeezed like cake frosting onto gauze and painted silver - alone or with patches of purple, pink and green.
Equally jaunty are the brightly colored reliefs of Lynda Benglis that, cast in paper and dusted with glitter, are variations on themes that the artist has explored in her gold leaf constructions.
Still, two of the most interesting sculptures are by A. Kimberlin Blackburn. The larger, called ''When a Woman Enters a Man's Heart,'' has both tribal and Pop overtones.
It consists of a triangular ''head'' in Styrofoam that has been painted black, ornamented with plastic beads and a stream of colored ribbons and then suspended between arching shapes made of wicker-like material painted black.
The other sculpture is an odd little tropical landscape carved from green Styrofoam in which a black and yellow shape that presumably symbolizes a woman stands among palm trees.
Among the best works in two dimensions are the serigraphs of Hiroshi Murata. Both consist of small boomerang-like shapes scattered over grounds that are, respectively, blue and black and aquamarine.
And although they are more at odds than most with the show's supposed theme, the somber, slitted canvases of Kay Walkingstick are noteworthy. So are Miss Swenson's own predominantly black abstractions.
As for the valuable space in the gallery's storefront windows, this is far from satisfactorily filled by quaint tea-cozy shapes made in various materials by Suellen Glashausser.
These, together with Janet Filomena's two large framed shapes of, apparently, tinted paper, are probably best left unanalyzed. So are Franc Palaia's records covered in iridescent metal foil, one of which spins on a turntable, and Charles Kumenick's copper and brass vulvas protruding from steel plates.
For the 2nd review...