Power through art

For more than five years, the Women Artists of Kauai have expressed their thoughts through the beauty of art — using chisels, photos and especially paint. 

For ocean artist Caylin Spear, painting has become not only a means of self-expression, but also a way to reach out to others. 

“Painting has enabled me to express myself in a positive way and has given me a sense of peace and joy,” said Spear. “I hope that what I’m doing inspires people to feel balance and to reach a positive meditational state in their own lives.”

Spear has been painting since she was 9. She began after a surgery that resulted in the amputation of her right leg. 

“I was born missing my femur, so I’ve always had one leg,” said Spear. “My mom put me in art classes to ease the pain and that became a way for me to cope.” 

Spear grew up on Kauai with her mother and continued her passion for art throughout high school and college. She then traveled across the world and began to teach her craft. She eventually returned to Kauai where she continues to paint, focusing on images of the sea. 

“The ocean is where I feel the most balanced,” Spear said. “I wear an artificial leg, so physically I have a lot more freedom when I’m painting.” 

Spear uses a wax encaustic medium mixed with oil paint along with sea shells, beach glass and driftwood in her works to show the realistic qualities of the ocean waves. Sea creatures also appear in her paintings, reminding people to have respect for all beings in the chaos of the world. 

Spear has dreams for her artwork, which she hopes to spread across the world. 

“I would like it to be seen locally and I’d like for my work to be seen within the whole state as a representation of Hawaii art,” she said. “I would love to represent Hawaii in the international art world.”  

Spear will be one of the featured artists at the Women Artists of Kauai’s sixth annual Fine Arts Festival on Nov. 29. The event, which will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hanapepe United Church of Christ, will feature live music and food along with viewing of original paintings, photography and more. The church is at 4481 Kona Road.

W.A.K. is a group of female artists who work to promote women artists on Kauai. In addition to expressing their ideas and emotions, the organization also provides supporting structure for the women. 

“It’s more than about art shows and events,” said W.A.K. founder and artist Marionette Taboniar. “It’s about camaraderie and helping each other. It’s important because we support each other as a group of women.”

Another artist who will be featured at the upcoming event, and who also has found her passion in painting, is Polish artist Anna Skaradzinska. 

“It’s something that I really love,” said Skaradzinska. “It allows you to focus really deeply; it’s a form of prayer. I couldn’t live without it.”

Born in Poland, Skaradzinska always had a passion for creating things on any surface. 

“In high school, my freshman year I went to the art exhibition by the seniors,” said Skaradzinska. “I saw some of the artwork that they did and I thought, ‘I hope I can be that good someday.’ It really moved me; it made me want to explore.” 

After graduating from high school, the artist attended classes at St. John’s University in New York where she continued to develop her love for the arts. Skaradzinska also took Saturday classes and was especially moved by “imaginary art,” also known as fantasy art, that explores the imagination. 

Skaradzinska worked as a commercial artist illustrator in product development in New York, but eventually began creating art for herself. 

In 1995, she moved to Hawaii, and today her work is published by Banana Patch Studios and the Aloha Spice Company. 

When asked how she would like people to feel when they look at her work, Skaradzinska responded, “I would like them to feel something. For my conceptual art, I want them to stop and see and feel and reflect something in themselves.”

Another artist who will be featured at the show is Donia Lilly, who has also explored the realm of paint and the other visual arts.

Growing up in a difficult household, Lilly found the visual arts at a young age. In college, she became an art major. 

“For me, painting is sort of like my sanctuary,” said Lilly. “For me, it’s not an intellectual process. It’s more of an emotional and spiritual one. I’m not seeing something and wanting to reproduce what I saw. I want to reflect the feelings that the experience or place had on me.”

Lilly’s mediums include mixed media, pastels and acrylics. In addition to using brushes, the artist also creates her works with her hands.

Although she has a love for painting, Lilly has found joy in many other arts, including dancing, singing and writing. Music has also acted as an inspiration for the artist, as she gains visual impressions from songs. 

Although painting has proven to be a large passion in Lilly’s life, there is no one craft that is better than others.

“Each one of the creative outlets allows me to engage in sort of a different dimension of my creative expression,” said Lilly. “They’re all different facets of that expression.”

Lilly has created works across the U.S., in New York and California, and has traveled to many countries in Europe. The artist has also been featured in “The Pastel Journal” and “The Pastel Artists of Hawaii.” 

Although the power of paint has given peace and hope to Spear, Lilly and Skaradzinska, it’s the crafting of pottery that has done the same for sculptor Leslie Hagen. 

As a hospice volunteer, Hagen aided an elderly woman who had once been an artist for Disney. As she drove the women to and from her pottery classes, and spent time in a ceramics lab, Hagen began to take an interest in clay and the three-dimensional process. 

“It’s the great escape,” said Hagen about pottery. “It’s relaxing, it’s rewarding, it’s good for the soul.” 

Hagen and incorporates a sense of humor into her work. 

“I’m inspired by everything and everybody,” said Hagen. “My work could be described as being whimsical, political satire, sometimes grotesque, sometimes beautiful. I’m happy when (people) get it. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.”

Hagen is even inspired by the news, as she feels she can bring the humor out of it and “make the world a little less depressing.”

The sculptor also finds inspiration from facial expressions, which she believes tell a story, and famous artists like Vincent van Gogh. And, she is always inspired by her fellow W.A.K. artists.

Hagen’s work has spread across the world, and has been featured in the U.S., Canada, China, Australia and the Netherlands. She has sold more than 1,300 art pieces. 

For more information on the Women Artists of Kauai, call Taboniar at 631-9173.


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