Biennial X - Artists Q&A


#1 – You work in several different mediums. Do you have a favorite? Which do you find to be the most challenging?
I’m moving in a new direction with my work and right now I’m interested in installation. But I think film is most challenging as a medium because you need to collaborate with a lot of other people and there are so many technical hurdles and things that can go wrong.  
#2 You have made a number of films and many of them have won awards. When did you learn filmmaking? Is there a filmmaker who you greatly admire?
The filmmaker Larry Jordon was teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute when I was there. He came to a show that I was in at the school, and then visited my studio and he really encouraged me to explore using film a medium. I took his Poetic Documentary class and I got hooked on the tools and the process of film, but more importantly, it impacted the direction of my work as an artist. I realized that I was very interested in investigating and unraveling histories around me, but that I could also do that in a loose, subjective way that mirrored the way I work in the studio.  
#3 What is the art scene like on the Big Island?
There are a lot of artists scattered around the Big Island, but I think a lot of us are tucked into our own nooks and crannies just doing our thing. My husband Keith Tallett is an artist too and we have an 8-year-old daughter, so juggling our own lives, making art and being parents keeps us busy. We live out on the Hamakua Coast, and would rather wake up early and go surfing than drive out late to go to evening art events across the island. The Donkey Mill in Holualoa has great programs going on, and Stephen Freedman has done really interesting shows at idSpace, but Keith and I kind of isolate ourselves, which I think is better for our family and our own work.  A few years ago we started an art collective called AGGROculture with two other artists Margo Ray and Scott Yoell and that has been really great for all of us. We share ideas and different technical skills with each other and have good conversations… it’s just been a good support system in general.
#4 Who were your childhood heroes? Who are you heroes today?
Well I really through Princess Leia was cool. As I got older I thought I wanted to be a writer and I admired women authors like Bronte and Louisa May Alcott. But then I wanted to be a photojournalist and go on undercover assignments and so I started looking at women that did that. Now, I work with a number of social service agencies as a photographer and videographer, and am often interviewing people that have experienced huge hardships in their lives. I think my heroes now are regular folks that are able to work through their own vices and struggles, make it out on the other side and then somehow find a way to give back. That inspires me.
#5 Where did you learn the processes and techniques that you used in your biennial X pieces?
My background is in photography but from the beginning I was always experimenting in the darkroom and in the studio. I was more inspired by painters and always looking for alternative processes and ways to work with images.  I’m basically a craft and hardware store junkie (I just found out that I’m in love with fabric stiffener). I took a photo class by Jack Fulton at the SFAI called Materials and Methods, and while the class was wonderful, it was basically my path out of the photography department, because I really began to expand my arsenal of materials.
#6 What is your creative process like?
A body of work usually begins with something I’ve read or some physical material that I have. The piece that I’ve made for the Biennial began with two things. A koa tree outside our studio had died and needed to come down. I started thinking about koa trees and the history of our property, and doing some research. I found a passage of writing by Hannah Kihalani Springer in the book, Growing Koa – A Hawaii Legacy Tree, by Craig R. Elevitch and Kim Wilkinson. She talks about Wao Lipo an area of the forest “where the koa is the tallest of them all, casting the darkest shadows of them all”.  That passage just captivated me. So my work moves forward intuitively, and then I do research and if conceptual ideas start pinging off in my brain I keep going. It’s a back and forth between concept and intuition.
#7 When and were did you have your first art exhibit?
My first exhibit was at this little store in Hilo. I mounted some photos I had taken on old plywood and matted them with sheet metal and scrap iron.  I thought they were tough, but they really weren’t. But it felt risky to me at the time.
#8 How and why has your style changed over the years?
My grasp and fluency with the materials I work with has matured. I was pretty much making mixed media paintings at SFAI and kept on that train of thought for a few years out of school. But I go off in tangents. When I started getting into using film, in 1999, I made a bunch of short experimental pieces and then I embarked on a much longer documentary project shot in 16mm and Super 8 film. That took about 6 years to make and get out in the world. I pretty much stopped making 2D work.  After I finished that film I was jonesing to simplify and work in the studio again. So for the last few years I’ve developed several bodies of work that consist of paintings and sculptures. Each time I move in a different direction for a while, it’s adds to my facility as an artist. I think sometimes you need to get really intense about something to bring it to fruition, even if that means some sacrifice in other areas.
#9 How do you find inspiration?
I collect things that interest me and they sit in piles around my studio for a long time. When Keith’s grandparents passed away, we helped clean their house. They were really industrious…he fixed cars and gardened and she sewed and cooked. There was a lot of residue from their lives carefully stored away that nobody wanted (coils of rope, a box of small light bulbs, jars of corks, fishing tackle, boxes of thread, old unidentified photographs)…that I took to my studio. These kinds of things are interesting to me and often are the beginnings of my work.
#10 What has been your greatest difficulty as an artist?
 I don’t really know how to answer that. Being an artist is hard and wonderful.
It’s about continually asking questions.
#11 Where do you see yourself as an artist in 5 years?
I wrote one of those “where will I be in five years” kind of letters to myself in my notebook last year, and on that list was the Biennial. When Inger asked me to be in this show, she encouraged me to push myself.  I guess now I just want to keep pushing the boundaries, scale, materials and ideas that I’m working with to the next level. But what that looks like? Stay tuned.
#12 What’s the best thing that happened to you as an artist?
Being married to Keith. He is an immense support, critic, partner and helper.
#13 If you could study under any artist dead or alive, who would it be and why?
There are numerous artists whose work inspire and feed me. In the beginning it was Robert Rauschenberg, Sigmar Polke, Christian Boltanski, Mike and Doug Starn. Currently it’s Judy Pfaff hands down. But I don’t think honestly that I’d want to study under any artist at this point.  I think that it would be hard not to just get immersed in their trip. There are new materials and methods I’d like to explore and processes I’d like to learn and I’d rather apprentice under a master craftsman. Right now I’m interested in skills like lashing and knot tying, and I’d like to be more knowledgeable about woodworking. 

1. You are currently teaching illustration and metalsmithing at Hui Noʻeau Visual Arts Center. Has being a teacher changed the way you approach your work?
There is definitely an interesting dynamic that happens when you have students and your brain is required to not only translate a particular skill but to anticipate how to properly convey the information as well. Teaching is a great exercise in problem solving in that you are forced to go outside of what you know in order to understand how another may see things and come up with solutions to fit those needs. Whenever you have more options it inevitably changes the way you look at your own work because you are able to test your own capabilities - you become your own student when challenged.
2. Iʼve heard some teachers say that they learn from their students and gain inspiration from them. Is this true for you?
I am so fortunate to have had some of the most amazing people cross my path in the classroom - both teachers and students. My students have been immensely supportive and there is a great dialogue that goes on about how different people approach their work. One of my goals as an instructor is to instill in the students that they are really their own best teachers and if I can convince them that this is true, I feel that I have done my job.
3. What is the art scene like on Maui? Do you find it difficult to expose your work residing on a less populated island?
Maui has so many different pockets of people doing some pretty incredible things - what I really enjoy is the crossover of different backgrounds and the communities that have developed from the disparities. There are scientists living here that just blow my mind in terms of the technology they have developed but they share that same creative need that drives the artists to create their work and the collaborating is pretty interesting.
4. Who were your childhood heroes? Who are your heroes today?
Teachers have been and always will be my heroes, especially those who work under difficult circumstances.
5. Where did you learn the processes and techniques that you used in your Biennial X pieces?
This project was a combination of the drawing skills that I learned during a course in Scientific Illustration at the University of Washington Extension School during my undergraduate studies as well as the incorporation of metal used as a canvas for my owl drawings. The video element was an entirely new process for me but I think I was attracted to the idea of moving imagery as painterly stills - there are a few moments in the installation that remind me of the watercolors I used to do when I was a kid.
6. What is your creative process like?
Looking around at all the the partially finished projects that fill my studio I am reminded that everything has its time and place and I just have to be patient if I get stuck - ultimately a piece will reveal itself in the right context and when it does finally get there, I have tunnel vision until its completed or it is thrown on the floor in an act of surrender.
7. When and where did you have your first art exhibit?
Well technically that would be when my fifth grade teacher let me do an "installation" in the library corner of our classroom. I thought that a jungle scene would be an awesome place to sit and read Johnny Tremain because at least if you weren't into the reading material you could on a little mind safari under the shade of paper palm trees.
8. How and why has your style changed over the years?
Many of the things that inspire me now are the same things that inspired me as a child, and although style inevitably evolves over time I tend to revert to things that are familiar as a starting point. As you get older you are able to draw from a greater well of experience and the exciting part is putting it all together - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't but there always seems to be a moment where someone recognizes the "you" in your work.
9. How do you find inspiration?
I never find it when I am looking for it, it just kind of happens. There are so many different things that inspire me it just depends what I am after - there are some moments that stick with you, its just about finding the right application for said inspiration.
10. What has been your greatest difficulty as an artist? That my ideas far outweigh my technical abilities.
11. Where do you see yourself as an artist in 5 years?
I would love to be able to work with an architect and create on a larger scale. The idea of site specific artwork is so
intriguing to me, and it seems that each piece I create is larger than the last so it is really just a natural progression. After that, I will be scattering silhouettes in outer space.
12. What is the best thing thatʼs happened to as an artist?
Each show feels like the best thing that has happened until the next one comes along and you realize that ideas you had years ago are suddenly very useful for the current moment.
13. If you could study under any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Recently I had the opportunity to meet Darren Waterston while he was working on a residency at TCM and was really struck by the diligent manner in which he creates his work. I have always admired his style and listening to him talk about his inspiration and methods of working made the artwork that much more rich - he has this interesting blend of fantasy and classical style that is rendered with such a delicate hand. It was interesting to learn how much he really researched his bodies of work and added to the whole experience of the viewer.
14. What career path would you take if you could no longer be an artist? A plant taxonomist or an entomologist.
15. What song/ artist do you like to listen to while making art? Coast to Coast - miss that Art Bell though!


1.  Recently some of your paintings from your Polyfantastica series were on display at the Transformer Gallery in Washington D.C., in partnership with National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian, which is a huge accomplishment.  Do you have an ultimate goal that you’d like to achieve as an artist?
I would like to evolve the Polyfantastica concept into a wiki-story telling platform that could feature contributions from artists, writers, directors, etc. in all mediums through a online interactive format. The themes would revolve around the the role of indigenous science-fiction and fantasy as a vehicle for sustaining cultural values into the future.

2.  Hawaii and issues pertaining to Hawaii are themes found in your work. You are also incredibly involved in the community and an inspiration to many people in Hawaii. Was there a particular event or person in your life that sparked this passion?
Dr. Jonathan Deenik is a soil scientist and a professor at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawai`i, and was one of my mentors. We spent a few years working in Makaha with at-risk youth and adults recovering from substance abuse to help them reconnect with society through Hawaiian culture by growing and maintaining community gardens. He would always begin each session by sharing stories of his times in the Peace Core in Africa and Nepal. These stories would set the tone for the day by giving us all some perspective about the challenges other peoples have merely to find food and safety for their families. So I learned from him the power of land and stories.

3.  What advice would you give to young artists in Hawaii who are just beginning their careers?
Knowing "how to draw" is not as important as "what to draw". Technique can be learned, but what you chose to say with your work is what should drive you. And if you have passion for your message, the way you express it will come naturally.

4.  Who were your childhood heroes? Who are your heroes today?
I would say my all time hero would be my father who gave up art on canvas to work with the most difficult of mediums; community organizing, specifically, restoring a sense of cultural identity and communal ownership to families along the Leeward Coast of O`ahu. I would also like to mention Maile Meyers for her work as a liaison with public and private entities to ensure that contemporary Hawaiian art is championed in the various arenas where the shaping of Hawai`i's future identity is at stake.

5.  Where did you learn the processes and techniques that you used in your Biennial X pieces?
Much of what I learned as an artist comes from being given a nurturing environment to create art as a child. I remember spending time in Wai`anae Library looking at book covers of late-seventies science fiction novels and attempting to draw them in all their dark and psychedelic splendor. Wayne Barlowe and Ian Miller come to mind.

6.  What is your creative process like?
I begin wits lots of sketches so that I can come to a deeper understanding of my concept and the composition that I wanna use. Then with little ado I begin drafting the image. Once I have structured my piece, Sometimes I work in the background and leave the subjects till last. I like to develop a strong silhouette for my subjects so that the piece will "read" from various distances.  

7.  When and where did you have your first art exhibit?
I had my first exhibit in a vacant store at Wai`anae Mall in 1997 as part of Wai`anae community festival. I painted dozens of red figures on a black background all over the floor and up one wall over an 800 foot space.

8.  How and why has your style changed over the years?
My father, with a background in art, gave me a few minimal tips throughout my art career. Maybe around the late 90`s he said " don`t use so much black". Then in the early 2000's he said, "go study design". He said these things and did not elaborate on them. So I took some basic art courses at KCC in the mid 2000's that made much more efficient as an artist.  

9.  How do you find inspiration?
I find it difficult to pin finding inspiration from any source as I would like to think that I am always being inspired be even menial tasks. However, when I do research for illustrating a Hawaiian legend, or when I work with other artist in large collaborations, I get to tap into textures and techniques respectively that inform my work. So simply put, I find inspiration in doing.

10.  What has been your greatest difficulty as an artist?
In the past it was struggling to find a message, now-a-days it is struggling to find the time. In the future I feel certain that I will have both of those things.

11.  Where do you see yourself as an artist in 5 years?
I hope to be heading some kind of creative media center of one kind or another with the mission is to perpetuate Hawaiian cultural values through various mediums. To be a part of a burgeoning mo`olelo (story-telling) industry where opportunities and careers for young artists in Hawai`i are abundant.

12.  What is the best thing that’s happened to as an artist?
Having the opportunity to travel to travel to Japan, New York, England and France, and to Colombia, South America, as part of an American Friends Service Committee delegation to stand in solidarity with Afro-Indigenous communities caught in a war-zone. This latter experience helped me to catalyze my message as an artist.   

13.  If you could study under any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why? 
The very first name that came to mind was Saturo Abe. As I write this I am realizing that there is an underpinning of his aesthetic in my pieces for the Biennial. His sense of balance and composition really resonates with me.

14.  What career path would you take if you could no longer be an artist?
I would work in a community garden and or be actively helping to open, sustain and promote them and backyard/container gardens throughout the state.

15.  What song/ artist do you like to listen to while making art?
Currently I listen to a lot of "Boards of Canada", "Advisory Circle", "Focus Group", "Belbury Poly", and other bands that collectively may be described as "experimental electronica". For me this music evokes landscapes and oceanscapes from past and future times


1. 30 years ago
2. Buildings & buildings from 2d to 3d, as a artist much more easy understand.
5. I amusing material more than 30 years. I learn from every where, I love materials. I try all the time.
7. 1982 group show was in shanghai art museum.
14. No art, can't live,  no artist, can't live.


1.What led you to performance art and mixed media from other traditional art disciplines?
As an undergraduate, I held this hierarchy in my head: “real” artists paint or sculpt. I wanted to be “serious” so I did my original training in painting. Although I had some exposure to fiber and mixed media work during my foundations classes at the Oregon College of Art and Craft, it wasn’t until graduate school that I focused on fiber, mixed media and installation. I got absorbed in painting before people talked much about the health risk of working with certain materials. I was not particularly careful with paints and my body had a toxic reaction to the pigments. This was devastating. I felt like I had come out of a long slumber
and fallen in love - only to have that forcibly taken away. I had to do something, so I looked back on what I knew and what materials felt safe and could be worked with in my home - materials that gave me energy instead of depleting me. I returned to what my mother and godmother had taught me as child - cooking, stitching and creating interesting interiors - and transformed these homemaking activities into modes of creative expression. The particular kind of performance that I do was
a natural extension, as I found many of these activities required lots of time yet also seemed inherently interesting to people. I realized that the hours I spent alone in my studio had their own richness, so I began to engage these private processes as a public expression.
2. Why is it important to you that viewers interact with your installation pieces and how does that aspect enrich your work?
3. As a professor at UH Manoa, you are working with and inspiring young artists. What is one thing you emphasize that you want your students to take from your teaching?
I want students to really understand and experience artmaking as mode of inquiry - a way of asking probing questions by experimenting with ideas, materials, process, context and form. It is a vehicle for exploring
the complexity of the world around us - and for making creative interventions that shift current structures. It is also a powerful tool for investigating the depth and richness of our own humanity; there is an equally vast inner world within each one of us waiting to be explored.
Finally, I want them to notice and experience their personal efficacy
- to actually notice and respect their own interests, and to actually experience their own joy....not just happiness - but the kind of profound joy that does not inhabit the world of opposites.... the kind of joy that understands that exhilaration, commitment, diligence, power, discipline and compassion are intimately interconnected.
4. Who were your childhood heroes? Who are your heroes today?
Inger reminded me this morning of two of my childhood heroes - Harold (and his purple crayon) and Harry the Dirty Dog. I adored these two dearly and wanted to hear their stories again and again. Both of them loved adventures but also loved to nestle back in to the coziness of home and all that’s familiar. Harold was magical. He could draw himself into any situation he wanted and his imagination could take him to all kinds of wonderful, terrifying, curious, scrumptious, and mysterious spaces. But he also that the wits to draw himself back out again. Harry was equally curious and courageous, if a little bit clumsier. His love for play and adventure left him in a coal covered state that transformed him from a white dog with black spots to a black dog with white spots - so much so that this family no longer recognized him. But that smart little pup thought to trigger the washing instinct in his owners, and soon he was the white dog with black spots nestled in the family again.
Heroes today? I try to avoid them
5. Where did you learn the processes and techniques that you used in your Biennial X pieces?
My work is grounded in fiber processes - stitching, sewing, knotting, unraveling. Much of this was learned from my mom - both through
direct instruction, but more so through hanging out with her in her sewing room as a child, watching her mend clothes and digging into the magical drawers filled with baby food jars of color sorted buttons, fabric scraps and salvaged laces. But the work is equally propelled
by observation and imagination.... of allowing myself to jump into alternative worlds or possibilities. This is also rooted in childhood experiences - my godmother taking me into nature, transforming sticks and grass and a small stream in to a two sailing ships racing down a tumultuous river on an heroic quest.
6. What is your creative process like?
My desire in both the process of constructing and hopefully the viewer’s experience of Surcease is to create a kind of silent, open space in which we have the opportunity - at least for a moment - to pull back from the bombardment of external stimulation that typically entertains, stimulates and often distracts our minds and instead offer a space of external silence so that the inner activity of the mind is invited to emerge. In this way it is very much like a kind of meditation, but not “meditative” in the sense of necessarily calm or blissful. Rather, my goal was to create a space to actually experience whatever it is that shelters itself behind discursive thought. For me,the process of making the work was very much like walking into a very full storage room that was completely dark. My first steps were exciting.. but quickly I found myself in much less comfortable places... as if I was tripping over boxes, running into unexpected things, anxious that some perilous situation might fall upon me, overwhelmed by the mental clutter. But every so often I would
find myself in some open space, calm and perfectly content, only to wander again, tripping over and bumping into new and old obstacles. The process of making this work is like slowly - very slowly - turning up the dimmer switch. The repetitive process - hours and hours of knotting across a nearly homogenous field of white or entrusting the task of tying hundreds of invisible threads to my hands instead of my eyes - provides a space in which I begin to see the contents of that storage room. The boxes do not disappear, nor do they magically align themselves in neatly
ordered stacks. The disorder and density is still there, but with a bit more light I have the option to step over it, organize it, clear the excess way...
7. When and where did you have your first art exhibit
I am not sure I remember, but the work that comes to mind was in a beautiful live oak grove in Oregon. I really enjoy working in alternative spaces, and I was drawn to the cathedral-like experience of the Oregon forest. So when my partner and I were looking for a place to live, I fell in love with this incredible old mistletoe-covered live oak grove next to a funky converted barn - and I new we had to rent that space. So we did. Soon after, I took out my credit card and ordered yards and yards of silk organza and constructed a hanging cloister of sorts completely of silk - totally suspended from the trees, reaching toward but just barely missing the earth. I begged my partner Kate to help me suspend it one early morning amidst the fog and dew. I think it was that work that got me to graduate school.
  1. How and why has your style changed over the years?
  2. How do you find inspiration?
walking, observing, working with my hands, stitching, sitting alone, talking with my partner kate, working with my students
10. What has been your greatest difficulty as an artist?
Maintaining a sense of spaciousness.... Being able to feel as if the container is empty enough to refill again. My creative process flows most freely when I am relaxed and experience a great expansion of
time. Compression shuts me down, so I have to be protective and remind myself to value and cherish “nothingness” - looking off into the distance, taking a long walk, working in the garden...taking time to listen to a friend or sit with my dog. These are all essential.
11. Where do you see yourself as an artist in 5 years?
12. What is the best thing that’s happened to as an artist?
I think the best thing that happened was walking in to my first formal art class while I was teaching Psych at U of O. I thought I was taking it for fun, and had no idea what it would ultimately unleash for me. It was an oil painting class. My paintings were pretty awful - looked like I was on some kind of psychedelic trip. But what was surprising and exhilarating was how my attempts at painting opened up a completely new world for me - one that had standing right in front of me all along, waiting to be seen. I had thought grass was green. Now I could see it was green and yellow and blue and red. I feel in love and could not turn back. Everything in my life has opened up since then.
13. If you could study under any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
14. What career path would you take if you could no longer be an artist?
For me, being an artist is not so much a career path, but rather a way
of thinking about, exploring and experiencing the world. I am not even sure what it would mean to no longer be an artist. I like to think that it is a part of everything I think about and do.
15. What song/ artist do you like to listen to while making art?
no song - just silence. I crave silence. But I also love the sound of rain and wind.


1.  You've traveled around the world and you've been to places most people
only dream of going to.  What was it about Hawaii that made you want to
settle here? How has living in Hawaii given you inspiration for your work?

I always thought of Hawai`i as a place of endless Summer.  Following years
of living on boats...I felt Kaua`i would be the best place to give land-life
a try ...  Sort of a halfway house with an added bonus of whales migrating
here each Winter...

2.  What is the most challenging step in the process of creating an image? 
The variables. 
To create photograph there are so many elements to take in account:
movement of the water, my own induced camera movement, focus, aperture,
conditions of the water, waterborne debris/particles that blend in an ever
changing world of light between underwater and above surface environment.

And then, all the variables in the printing process.

3.  You graduated from law school and then worked as a newspaper and radio
reporter in Croatia. In 1987 you decided to pursue a life at sea, which is a
drastically different lifestyle than that of a news reporter. What made you
decide to leave your career as a reporter behind? Was it a spontaneous
I studied law  but I was not meant to be a lawyer. I love water and I wanted
to see the world...  I love art and wanted to be an artist. I am an
adventurer, a gypsy.

4.  Who were your childhood heroes? Who are your heroes today?
Growing up, I really never had a hero, nor do I have one today.  I was
inspired by  qualities and the integrity of many courageous, talented, and
forward thinking people I have had a privilege to know [ or know of ]during
my lifetime. If I had to single out one person who influenced me the most,
it would be Jacques Cousteau.

I am also grateful to my mother for making nature and art an essential part
of my and my sister's life. 

5.  Where did you learn the processes and techniques that you used in your
Biennial X pieces?
I am a self-taught photographer and printer.
To learn contact printing with limited knowledge aquired from books and the
web I started to print and experiment.  I have learned from my own mistakes
and successes.

6.  What is your creative process like?
 Constant, spontaneous, unstructured, but consciously  executed.

7.  When and where did you have your first art exhibit?
2002 , One Big Truth Gallery  [ sulkin/Secant ] Bergamot Station Art Center,
Santa Monica, California

8.  How and why has your style changed over the years?
For over two decades I photographed  marine life.  I created intimate
portraits of fish, sharks, and corals. Today, when I photograph in  the
ocean, I often find void, and damage instead, footprints where we humans
shouldn't have left  any.  That is why I photograph empty oceans. 

9.  How do you find inspiration?
The ocean + the light + my camera = inspiration.

10.  What has been your greatest difficulty as an artist?
In the recent years, finding time to make art...

11.  Where do you see yourself as an artist in 5 years?
In the water shooting, in the studio, printing... 

12.  What is the best thing that's happened to you as an artist?
The ability and the opportunity to be one.

13.  If you could study under any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and

Really hard to single out one artist. Man Ray.

14.  What career path would you take if you could no longer be an artist?
I would go back to sea and continue making art as I always did.

15.  What song/ artist do you like to listen to while making art?
I work in the water and in silence...

When printing, it is very quiet where I live .. though sometime I do listen
to the music, more often I don't.