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Circling Back: Art on Cedar Street

Honolulu Weekly, January 16-22, 2002 (page 27)

Over the years, Mike and Sheri Schnack organized charity art sales. They got so involved in the art market that they decided to open their own gallery. The couple decided they would only show and promote local artists, and that their merchandise would be affordable.

The Schnacks' Cedar Street Gallery in midtown Honolulu now represents over 150 local artists and contains more than 900 original artworks.

Local boy Mike Schnack grew up on Pu'u Panini in Kahala, next door to accomplished artist Shirley Russell, who taught at McKinley High School for 30 years and raised her son as a single mom. Schnack remembers that Russell could bake a mean cookie. The kids in the neighborhood, Schnack among them, would smell those cookies baking and find their way to her house.

Cookies were the cause of the kids' first exposure to a real working artist, Schnack says. He has several Russell pieces in me gallery now. The cheapest: a 1945 watercolor of a sunlit Mexican village, "Noontime Sun," for $675.

The circle is complete. All that's missing is the cookies.


Dead and Alive: Two women artists, one contemporary, one historical, paint local women
by Shereen El-Kadi, Honolulu Magazine, October 2001 (page 23)

A new exhibit at the Cedar Street Galleries features two female artists who paint local women. One, Jean Charlot Foundation Award-winner Chris Campbell, is contemporary. The other, famed artist Madge Tennent, has been dead for 29 years. Appropriately titled "Yesterday and Today," the exhibit explores the varied techniques the two women used to portray their similar notions of Native Hawaiian beauty.

Chris Campbell arrived In Hawai'i three years ago, deciding to retire here with her husband. She had studied at the Art Students League in New York City, and began painting impressionistic images on board or canvas. But after relocating to the Islands, Campbell's artistic focus shifted toward Native Hawaiian women.

"The people here are very different. I love their features... there is an emphasis on [bodily] form and solidity," Campbell says. Her oils tend to feature a substantial Hawaiian woman wearing a striking Hawaiian print sarong. They usually include a still-life object -- a flower, for example -- to make the completed portrait more interesting to the eye.

Campbell's oil paintings are displayed at several galleries on the Mainland, as well as at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Mike Schnack, Cedar Street Galleries owner, says, "Chris Campbell was the featured artist for Hawaiian Airlines during the second quarter of the year. Her paintings are popular."

Madge Tennent was born in England. She began painting as a teenager, and was schooled at the Academie Julian in Paris. She moved to Hawai'i with her husband and two sons in 1923, and painted portraits of children and women to help support the family. Tennent eventually narrowed her focus to painting solely Hawaiian and local women. The paintings that made her famous are a variety of billowy impasto portraits of larger women.

Tennent often painted using a palette knife, giving a three- dimensional effect to her images with thick layers of paint. Reds and blues dominate many of Tennent's paintings, giving the impression of warmth and human presence. As large canvases were hard to come by in the first half of the 20th century, Madge Tennent often sewed smaller canvases together -- or used sturdier material, like burlap -- before embarking on a large painting. The sewing is actually visible on some of Tennent's works, even under the thick oil paint.

During Tennent's lifetime, there was criticism because she was a Caucasian woman painting Hawaiians. Many thought that she exaggerated and romanticized the Hawaiian form and image because she was not Hawaiian herself. But Elaine Tennent, Madge Tennent's daughter-in-law and curator of the Tennent Art Gallery Foundation in Punchbowl , says that the artist painted out of a love for the natural beauty she found in local women. Tennent's choice to paint large Hawaiian women was "a universal statement she was making about oneness with nature."

The Cedar Street Galleries exhibit runs through October 26. All of the pieces on display are for sale. The Campbell paintings cost between $850 and $4,500. The Tennent paintings and drawings, which are from the Donald Angus Collection, range from $100 to $50,000.

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