"Kama'aina Soul - Anthology" - A Message From the Artist

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming to this exhibit of my wet plate photography work.  I am privileged to have lived on Kauai for the last 36 years.  In the last 16 months, I have put together this portfolio of photographs which started as the result of seeing a documentary about Billy the Kid and Tintype (wet plate) photography.   While sitting in a restaurant a bit later I realized Kauai’s diverse population would be fascinating to capture using the aesthetic of wet plate. I was drawn to its slow tactile nature and raw soulful aesthetic.  So after a year of self study, research, and resourcing, I “poured” my first wet plate image.  Dating back to 1851 it is considered one of the oldest photographic methods and was used primarily during the Civil War period. The process is currently practiced by about 2000 people worldwide and I am the only one in Hawaii doing this type of art. At first I did mostly portraits but as my skills grew I was able to start adding more creativity to my work.  My work is already garnishing some recognition and awards. Most of my sitters represented in this show are average people (not professional models) who live right here on Kauai with the exception of a few Heiva dancers from the outer islands.

I use original lenses and wet plate recipes from the 1850-60s.  Mixing my own chemistry requires great patience and attention to detail.  There are hundreds of variables that can go wrong with a shoot from environmental factors to focus issues, etc. The sitters are briefed during an initial consultation where wet plate is explained and ideas are discussed for the shoot.  I view every hand crafted image as a collaborative effort with my sitters.  The shooting sessions can last 4-6 hours and sometimes many attempts are required to achieve an acceptable image.  So the sitters have to have great patience and interest in the process.

Kama’aina Soul – Anthology”  is the title I have given to this show because I have been told that my images have a way of welcoming the viewer into the soul of the person I’m photographing. These images represent a collection of stories told through my sitter’s eyes, or stories about Kauai’s culture, history, and things of importance to us such as family and preservation of culture and environment.  I have tried to cover a swath of emotions in this body of work withdiverse influences ranging from pictorialism to street art. I especiallyenjoy working with the keiki (children) as I think that they are able to show us things about the complexities of life and its challenges more poignantly than I could show through an adult.  They also cause us to temper our thoughts regarding adult issues for you cannot blame a child for the problems we adults have created. It is my personal call to a simpler time of innocence and beauty. As the great photographer Richard Avedon once said, “My portraits are more about me than they are about the people I photograph.”

It is my desire to continue creating fine art with layered meaning and evocative imagery as this is where my passion lies.  In that effort I will continue to look for potential sitters and willing individuals who want to be a part of this work.  But I will also be availing my skills as a portrait artist for private commissioned work.  Please pick up a portrait package brochure if interested in having a hand crafted timeless piece of art created with your likeness or the likeness of someone you love.  

I invite you now to take in each image, watch the looping videos, andview the “What is Wet Plate Collodion Photography “ learning area within the gallery to better understand its history and process.

I am offering special pricing on these images during this show.  Please see the cashier if interested in becoming a collector of my work.

Mahalo for coming.  I am honored by your presence.

 

New Releases to be shown at Art House - September 24, 2016

Yes, I have two new land art pieces and one new landscape image I will be releasing during this artist featured show.  Art House Gallery in Koloa will be hosting this event featuring all their artists with a special emphasis on yours truly... go figure. :)  Anyway, you are all welcome to join us in this special reveal.  I will also be introducing two wet plate images that evening as a precursor to the January 21 opening of my wet plate exhibit featuring over 100 images.  Follow me on FB to get more details as they develop.  Mahalo!

Reasons Why I Am Not Just Another Andy Goldsworthy

Preface:  Prior to and during my solo exhibit in May 2015, I noticed folks that had been trained in art or who were well rehearsed in art would often compare my work to the renowned British artist Andy Goldsworthy.  Although I acknowledge that a few of my pieces had direct influence from his work, I would like to explain why my work is nevertheless unique.  Please don't regard my reasons below as a treatise against Goldsworthy.  I love his work and I can truly say he is a master of his genre. His introduction to me opened my eyes to other possibilities and for that I am grateful. However, I have always given credit where it is due and my artist statement on my previous blog and in my program which was passed out to everyone at my solo exibit last summer clearly disclosed what my work is about and where artists like Andy Goldsworthy had their influence on my work.

1. Is Andy Goldsworthy the only land artist?  In the 1960s thru early 1980s there were no less than 30 artists who were practicing some form of nature and/or land art which served as a sort of revolt against the perceived artificiality of contemporary art.  Goldsworthy received some of his inspiration from these contemporaries and predecessors.  Just look at the art of Richard Long, Nils-Udo, Josef Beuys,  Yves Klein, and Robert Smithson.   Goldsworthy's popularity today is due in part that he was and still is  very prolific and that every art institution uses him as a primary reference for "land art".   However, to say, there is no more room in the world for land artists is akin to saying that we should never have another impressionistic painter because Monet cornered that.  I have also received much inspiration from other named and unknown artists alike. Goldsworthy hasn't been my only inspiration by any means of the imagination.

2. Nature is in my blood.  I was involved with nature sculpture even as a child.  My Grandmother's house was a mecca for us kids making driftwood sculptures, beach glass art, and rock arrangements from elements we found in river beds or along the shores of Lake Michigan where I grew up. She was such an influence in my love of nature from my earliest childhood.  My current activity in land art harkens to fond memories of my childhood and it rejuvenates me.

3. Goldsworthy is brilliant but he didn't invent rock stacking. Three years ago, I started making rock stacks as a result of watching Michael Grabb and Bill Dan, not Andy Goldsworthy.  Grabb's sculptures are truly inspiring and in my opinion much more challenging than Andy's were, because Andy would use pebbles and such to prop up the rocks.  Grabb uses pure balance.  I was made aware of Andy Goldsworthy after I approached an artist friend about my work. I had never heard of Goldsworthy prior.   Rock stacking is not unique to Goldsworthy although some consider him to be the "father of modern rock stacking"...  whatever that means.   Rock stacking and rock wall building has been a part of civilization for millennia.

4.  What my exposure to Goldsworthy did for my art.  Rock stacking (balancing) was very therapeutic for me, but when I became aware of Andy Goldsworthy, his work obviously opened my eyes to many other possibilities. As I started to delve into other materials and themes to work with, I found all of it including the photographing of it to be therapeutic and healing.  The floodgates of creativity slowly started to open and I really felt that this developing form of art had direct application to my nearly 35 year love affair with Kauai.

5. I consider six of my early works to be "Goldsworthy Studies".  And this is directly indicated on my website under their titles.  Like any student of art, when I first started expanding from rock stacking to land art, I wanted to get into the head of some land art artists and you do so by often creating similar pieces.  At first I didn't want to print them, but my assistant and some friends told me I shouldn't care because the pieces were beautiful in their own right.  But as a matter of conscience and after some consultation with an art expert, I decided that if these pieces sold I would donate most of the proceeds to the National Tropical Botanical Garden and also the Surfrider Foundation - Kauai Chapter, because these two organizations were putting feet to ground of what I was trying to accomplish through my art... “malama the aina” (taking care of the land). Ironically, I have sold very few of those pieces but my total donations have been several hundred dollars between May 28 and 6 Nov 6, 2015.

6. The photographic method I use is dramatically different.  Goldsworthy said, "My approach to the photograph is kept simple, almost routine. All work, good and bad, is documented".   His photographs simply document the sculptures, whereas my photographs are meant to bring attention to the aina through the sculptures.  My photographs are as much about the landscape as it is about the sculpture. To Goldsworthy, only the sculpture really counted and photographing it was necessary to prove his method, etc. My photographs are meant to be images which leave an indelible impression on the viewer.  It is likely that if you viewed my sculptures live, they may not seem that impressive, so composition, lighting, and atmospherics are critical to the feeling I want to convey through the overall image. Goldsworthy had very complex sculptures with simple photography.  My art has complex sculptures set within a complex landscape captured with complex photography.  It is far from "simple and routine". 

7. Goldsworthy leaves his sculptures to natural decaying forces.  And that is a beautiful thing to behold through photographic documentation.  However, I return all my elements to nature as soon as I can after the image is captured. Again, this is about "malama the aina" especially Kauai's aina.  Goldsworthy could take his time with his sculptures working on them for days and weeks.  My sculptures must be completed within two days due to my work schedule.

8. Goldsworthy's art was performed in many countries around the world. My art is exclusive to Kauai only.  My work is all about this land, this aina, this relationship we all share with its specialness, its uniqueness, its beauty, and its magic.  That is why I don't want to restrict my artistic endeavors to land art only.  I also do some pure landscapes and my new series, people of the land - Kama'aina Art where I photograph the people that live on and roam this land, who farm it, who are inspired by it, who care for it as much as I do.  This makes my source of inspiration seemingly very narrow, however, although Kauai is small in size, it is huge in variety, diversity, and complexity thereby making it an endless source of inspiration for me. Why go anywhere else?   So my art is about this land only, whereas Goldsworthy's art and inspiration is taken from nature wherever he is.

9. Goldsworthy has formal training with a bachelor’s degree in art.  I have no formal training in art although I hold a Master's degree in education.  I am mostly self-taught and have developed my own unique photographic workflow based on several resources and training I have received - my "secret recipe" if you will, which gives my land art pieces a special glow.  My wet plate collodion photography of the kama'aina (people who live here) is an antique process that I am resurrecting here in Hawaii.  I am the only one doing wet plate on Kauai and maybe only one of two or three in the entire state that I know of.  

10. Goldsworthy's art is an exploration of his relationship with natural elements and nature in general whereas my later work has developed into sculpture which has key references to our culture and history in Hawaii.  I have also created unique conceptual pieces using water filled trays, hanging rocks, internal sand sculpture, and literal figures in the earth based on hula, tapa making, hawaiian tattoo, petroglyphs and other hawaiian references. I have many projects planned for the near future where I continue to explore these themes and others that are in development.

11.  There is a quote from "Hand to Earth" which makes us somewhat the same:  "He (Goldsworthy) is not concerned with a view of the land, as we see it, but with the land itself, its substance, the things that live in it and what happens to it."  I would like to say that I am also concerned with the "view of the land" for if that changes on Kauai (and it is) our aina is lost.

12. Goldsworthy purposely tries to not take tools or man-made fastening devices in the field with him.  I on the other hand will employ different tools, and sometimes use string or hemp chord to fasten things.  In the end, the differences between any artist's work is the strict ground rules they set for themselves and working within those limitations adds interest and challenge to the pieces they create.  These limitations are often so well masked in the work that it may be difficult to see distinctions between varying artists.

13. Goldsworthy's art routinely used common shapes such as the circle, triangle, and snaking patterns... so fundamental that no artist can escape them. However, he eschewed symbolism through the use of these shapes.  I on the other hand am not afraid to use symbolism in my work especially as it pertains to our culture and history. It is pervasive in our culture.  This makes my work uniquely Hawaiian in nature. Richard Long made an observation that stone circles and ostensibly similar manifestations in the past came about because of social or religious influence.  Long and Goldsworthy insist they make their circles as a matter of individual expression.  It cannot be assumed that forms will have the same meanings in the past, or that a common understanding of forms will exist. What matters most is that such analogies should be felt and not imposed.  It is my hope that the viewer feels a special affinity through the use of shapes and symbols to our unique aina so that it inspires malama with pono (taking care of our land with responsibility). This is the underlying message of all my work.

Conclusion: In the end, folks will either dismiss my work thinking it is too similar to Goldsworthy or other artists, or they will embrace the uniqueness and beauty of the work I create recognizing the thought, preparation, and hard work that goes into each piece.  Land art and my wet plate work has brought more enrichment to my life than I could ever imagine at this stage of my life.  It doesn't matter to me that I make money through my work or that I become renowned. I am only concerned that my work can resonate with the viewer and hold its own with integrity.  I appreciate your time in reading this and I especially appreciate those of you who understand this message and accept my work for what it is. 

Much Mahalo!

Update on Kauai Aina Art

Well, right after the show on May 28, as you know I was invited to have a solo exhibit at the Lihue Airport by the Garden Island Arts Council and then I went into three straight weeks of training on our new radar system up in Kokee.  My training is now done and am now preparing for an annual one week children's camp I have been working the past 20+ years.  After that I plan to get into full swing with my wet plate photography as well as start producing at least one new land art piece a month.  It will take me several months of shooting wet plate before I am feeling confident to create art with it.  It is a very unpredictable and unforgiving process, but can create wonderful results even with mistakes.  I order the chemistry end of this week.  Can't wait.  I will keep you all posted with teasers of the creative projects I have planned.  Hope to have another show next year with new land art and of course, wet plate.  Take care my friends.

Kauai Aina Art Opening a Success!

Hello All.  I just want to thank everyone for the great support and very encouraging words leading up the opening last night.  I am now sitting in the gallery frantically trying to load all the pictures on this website's galleries.  I hope to have it all done by Monday.  I appreciate your patience as many of you have waited a long time to see the full body of work.  We had a great turn out last night with many friends, neighbors, acquaintances and a large number of guests and tourists strolling through the gallery.  I was extremely please with all the positive feedback was overwhelming.  I was uplifted, encouraged, and humbled all at the same moment.  I heard many comments that this was the best art show they have seen on Kauai.  Artists, visitors and members of the Kauai Society of Artists were all saying the same thing.  I am truly blessed by this event and by you all.  .... as I write I just sold 4 more pieces.   :)

Message from the Artist - regarding the May 22-29 Exhibit

This message will be in the program given out during the exhibit.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming to the first public exhibit of my work.  I am privileged to have lived on Kauai for the past 34 years.  In the last 2-3 years, I have put together this portfolio of photographs which started as the result of discovering (thanks to my mother) the art of rock stacking.  Often referred to as “cairns,” rock stacking can be found in many civilizations around the world dating back many centuries.   A little later on,  I was made aware of an art movement known as Land Art - a kind of artistic revolt against the commercialization and perceived artificiality of art  in the 1960’s and  70’s. British artist, Andy Goldsworthy, was probably most influential in bringing land art to a fine art level with several museum and gallery installations spanning the time of 4 decades.   I was enthralled by his work and others.  I was immediately aware of the potential Kauai had for such art which I would call “Aina Art”.  However I was also aware that I would need to develop my own style in time with a unique vision for where I wanted to take it.

In this exhibit you will see my development as an artist from some earlier Andy Goldsworthy influenced pieces (which I call “studies”) maturing into my own concepts influenced by Hawaiian culture, history, and exploring how the Aina inspires aesthetic aspirations.  You see a sampling of some series I am developing including the future subject of  “Kama’aina Art” – people of the land through wet plate collodion photography.  I don’t claim to be a Hawaiian authority or an innovator of land art.  My only hope through the application of this wonderful art form is to bring attention to the Aina and our need to keep it pristine.  I try to lead by example by returning all the elements in my land art pieces back to nature after I capture the photograph.  

There are certain pieces in this collection marked “Goldsworthy study” in which 100% of any profits made during the exhibit and in the future will be donated to two organizations here on Kauai which are also committed to what I am trying to achieve through my art:  The Surf Rider Foundation and the National Tropical Botanical Gardens are both non-profit organizations committed to preserving our eco-systems and bringing awareness to its residents and visitors alike. Also, during this exhibit, 10% of all other profits will be donated to the same causes.

A note about the photography:  As an artist with a vision of what I want my pictures to convey, I will sometimes go beyond the normal post processing of RAW file touch ups and adjustments. My closely held work flow consists of methods for light control through the use of tonal masks, sharpening, and selective curves and level adjustments all in an effort to evoke a feeling of warm engagement from the viewer.  I’m trying to achieve an ethereal magical glow similar to early American landscape painting… for I think Kauai is also magical.  There is no digital manipulation of the actual sculptures, i.e. I don’t clone and stamp a rock to make it more than it is. This is why I often document my work on video so that there is no doubt that these rocks are actually balanced and the art is manually hand crafted.  In regards to my landscape images, I usually don’t go out just to photograph them unless the light or location is something I haven’t seen before.

There is not enough space or time to explain everything that goes into each piece but I encourage you to read each art tag to learn a little more about the work.  I invite you to follow me on my blog or Facebook page as I continue to hone my skills and vision as an artist. 

Thank you again for coming and I am honored by your presence.

VIDEO DEBUT - Daniel Finchum's Process

See Daniel Finchum's process in from inspiration to creation in this six minute video.  Some of the pics in this video will not be in the May 22 show and likewise, some pics not shown in video will be in the show.  Hope to see you all there and please Share.           Kukui Grove Mall - KSA Gallery - May 22, 6-9pm Reception & Opening.  Daily showings from 11am-8pm until May 29.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOcLYSxuul4

Video may also be viewed via my Video page on my website.

PRESS RELEASE -- Released!

LOCAL ARTIST TO EXHIBIT NATURAL ART CELEBRATING KAUA’I

Visitors can anticipate a unique experience at local artist Daniel Finchum's first solo exhibition. As a new artist, Finchum has worked for the past two years to compile a portfolio that has already acquired some recognition and awards. Finchum’s natural sculptures, which he refers to as “land art,” were painstakingly crafted and inspired by Kauai’s breathtaking vistas. In the rainforests and riverbeds, ocean shores and mountain tops, Finchum found inspiration for his art and the natural elements to design and sculpt them with. He then skillfully photographed these unforgettable pieces of art and carefully disassembled them, taking only their images with him.  

An active resident of Kauai for the past 34 years, Finchum has acquired rare perspectives unshared by most visitors and all but the most adventurous residents. He sees his sculptures and photographs as enhancements to the island's inherent beauty; he compares them to a "diamond necklace around the neck of a beautiful woman.” His skills as a photographer captures these portraits of Nani Kaua'i and his "Kaua'i ʻĀina Art" adorning her. His artistic vision speaks of Kauai's beauty, culture, history, and even present concerns.  

Finchum’s exhibit opening will be held on May 22, 2015, 6---9 PM, in the Kauai Society of Artists gallery space at Kukui Grove Mall. His reception promises music, pupus, and a couple of surprises. If you appreciate art and the natural beauty of Kauai, you won't want to miss this special night.

Finchum's entire body of work will be available after the exhibit on his company website at www.kauaiainaart.com.   

You may contact him via email at dcfinchum@gmail.com, or by phone at (808) 639-7126.

La'au Symphony Wins a People's Choice Award

It's funny how these things work out.  On the evening of the closing reception of the KSA Membership Show, People's Choice Awards were announced and my name wasn't included although many people had told me they thought my piece was a sure winner.  Later I had heard that some artists had voted for themselves over 30 times, which by the way, maybe a little unethical, but isn't against the rules.  I decided not to vote for myself even once.  A little voice in me said, "this is weird."  Anyway, I get a letter in the mail to today from one of the artists in the show with a check which tells me that there was a miscount and I was tied with another artist and had won a People's Choice Award.  So, thank you Kauai for voting my piece as one of your favorites. 

Update on the May 22 show... everything is flowing along smoothly to this point.  I just ordered more pictures and can't wait to see them as prints.  And, of course, I can't wait to show you all the hard work I have been doing over the past two years.  Cheers!

La'au Symphony on Exihibit starting tonight.

Tonight at the Kauai Society of Artists gallery at Kukui Mall, La'au Symphony will make its premier showing at 6pm along with many other works from KSA members.  Since it is a membership show there will be People's Choice awards.  So if you are up to seeing a new piece of mine as well as being inspired by local art, come on out and submit your vote. The vote acts as a fund raiser for the society so there will be a $1 charge for each vote.   The show will remain open until March 13. 

"Maluhia" - Winner of the Steinhart Award with KSA.

I am pleased to announce that one of the two pieces I entered into the Kauai Society of Artists juried art show won the Steinhart Award.  Please go to my Land Art Gallery to view the pieces that I entered including the winning piece.  If you are on Kauai, you can view the signed pieces as large aluminum prints floated on a simple black frame in the KSA gallery at Kukui Grove Shopping Center,

I'm Accepted!!

With over 120 works by over 50 artists, two of the three pieces I entered got accepted into the Kauai Society of Artists juried art show.  Of course I'm elated, but none of the accepted artist will know if they won anything until the opening reception on the 19th of September.  Unfortunately, I'll be on the mainland. If your on island, go check out the show.  Show times will be posted on the KSA website.  I will publish these two works after the 19th on this website. Also, they will be for sale during the show.  Thank you for all your encouragement... and you know who you are.

Some early comments from KSA on my art entries.

I received an email today from an artist friend of mine who has been in the art industry for 50 years.  She handled my entries to KSA's (Kauai Society of Artists) juried art show and this was the feedback already received. 

"I received positive comments about your work.  Licia McDonald, a ceramic artist and one of the show co-chairs, was very impressed with your images and with their presentation.  She [said] it was "very likely to sell". "

Hope the juror feels the same... should know very soon. 

Kauai Society of Artists jouried art show entry hopefuls.

I am hoping that the three pieces I am entering into the Kauai Society of Artists (KSA) this Friday are accepted into the show.  If they are, I will be revealing these pieces to the public.  If they aren't accepted, you will eventually get to see them in my one man show 22 May 2015.  Mark your calendars!  In the mean time, I will give you their names as a teaser:  I try to use Hawaiian names as much as possible so the naming order is:    Hawaiian name, english translation in parenthesis, and the location of the picture.    1. Lana ka Hiamoe (Awakening) - Nounou Mountain, aka "Sleeping Giant"      2. La'au Symphony (stick) - Kealia beach river mouth,              3. Maluhia (tranquility) - Hoopii (lower) Falls.