Artist shows it off in public

‘Oma‘o’s Carol Bennett is one of several Hawai‘i artists who are creators of works in a new exhibit on display at the Hawai‘i State Art Museum on O‘ahu, called “Art in Public Places.” The exhibition chronicles the Hawai‘i’s Art in Public Places Program from 1967 to the present, a program that has since been considered one the most progressive art programs in the country, and has been copied in other states, State Foundation on Culture and the Arts officials have said.

Bennett’s massive pair of glass-tile mosaics, “Kanawai,” erected on the walls of the new Kaua‘i state judiciary building on Kapule Highway in Lihu‘e, is among the pieces selected as examples of art in public places.

Pictures of the piece and a short film will be shown at the museum to explain her work.

“Most people don’t know the difference between commissioned private pieces and public art,” she said. “They just think ‘artsy.’ So they talk about the commissioning process.” Aside from the mosaics outside of the judiciary building, Bennett also has massive murals displayed at the Honolulu International Airport.

Other artists featured at the exhibit are Jean Charlot, Betty Ecke, Kazu Kauinana, Tadashi Sato and Michael Tom. Bennett got to join a few of them to speak at a forum on the exhibit.

“I’ve actually gone over there twice to speak, once with the docent to talk about the tour, and once for a public forum. I’m a visual person, not a verbal person, and I seldom get to meet other artists who do public work,” Bennett said. “We all come from different backgrounds.” Bennett, who graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, brings her experience of painting giant billboards, whereas one of her fellows artists of the exhibit was an architect.

“A good question, one that’s always asked, is ‘how does a little person like you do such big art?’” she said. “I have 15 years on scaffolding or scissor lifts doing big work.” Bennett enjoys creating public art.

“I think, for me, what I like about doing public art, is that fine art can be sort of a bourgeois sort of thing where you have to come from a certain background and money to appreciate it,” she said.

“Public art is for the masses. I think public art is accessible, and it educates.” The exhibition will feature a media room with a hands-on, interactive element to attract audiences and encourage their own exploration of public art.

There will also be free public programs featuring artist lectures and panel discussions. Student tours will also be available for group booking.

“Public arts allows you to stop and take a moment to reflect.

You’ll find other layers to the art,” Bennett explained.

“If you look at it as a decoration, that’s all it will be to you,” she said. “I’m just part of the big picture for public art.”

• Lanaly Cabalo, lifestyle writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or


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