HAIKU, Hawaii — Ever have the urge to peek over an artist's easel or peer beyond a sculptor's chisel? On Maui this fantasy can be reality.
Visitors can walk right into the homes and studios of Maui's best. Painters, wood sculptors, fabric designers, stained-glass workers, potters--they're all available thanks to a new tour company called, naturally enough, Maui Art Tours.
The idea is to get patrons and artists together, to make the artists seem less elusive. And, of course, the goal is to sell art. Yet there's no sales pitch. The all-day affair is structured for fun and for education.
The artists seem excited about the tours. There's no snobbishness about being "artistes" alone in their ateliers.
"They want to share their work and their dreams," says Judy Ivec, the tour's coordinator. "Many were shy when we first asked them to be on the tour, but all seemed flattered. They're eager to have their work shown."
Andrew Annenberg, one of the island's best-known painters, is the antithesis of shyness. He jokingly told Ivec he would stand outside his house dressed in a French smock and beret and fling paint hither and yon into the air as we tourists drove up his secluded drive.
Instead, he sat back relaxing amid the tropical greenery of his Haiku home. Annenberg wears an easy grin more readily than a beret. Haiku, a rainy, green area of Maui, is a favored haven for artists, possibly because it's populated by more waterfalls and plants than people.
Look Behind the House
A quick introduction to his airy wooden pole house proved he does not work there. Nothing out of order. Behind the house, down a pine needle path through a stand of ironwood trees is his one-room studio, a screened-in gazebo. There he creates his visionary oil paintings. He paints with the exacting detail of a realist, yet transcendental themes and fantasy dominate.
One of our group compared Annenberg's detailed surrealism to Rene Magritte and Hieronymus Bosch. "They're both my comrades," he said with a smile.
Annenberg paints on more than canvas. He showed us miniatures done on rock crystals, bones, slabs of jade, anything that pleases him.
He has combined talents with friend Will Herrera to create several miniatures painted on Herrera's ceramic "Dreamscape" masks. Herrera, also part of the tour, is well-known for his ceramic work. He molds everything from dragonflies to humans. His work has a whimsical, modern look, tinged with surrealism.
Herrera met our group dressed in shorts and T-shirt, hair wet, feet bare, obviously just out of the shower. He served us home-grown lemon grass tea in wine goblets . . . the casual, friendly aloha spirit.
On a tour of his backyard studio he demonstrated how to pour liquid clay into a plaster mold. It was a small seashell mold, simple business for a man who has done casts of sharks and Playboy bunnies. The bunny stands seven feet tall on a pedestal and graces an L.A. restaurant. Her 28 molds took 450 hours of work.
Stained-glass window artist Ken Pinsky greeted us with his month-old son in his arms. His wife, artist Adrienne, stood on the porch of their half-built home with her white-haired father. Three-year-old daughter Georgia left her painting easel set in the middle of the living room to stare at the strangers. Ma, pa, gramps and the kids. A down-home scene from Hicksville, America--Haiku, Maui style.
Friendly and sweet, the Pinskys slip from the down-home tone when talking of their art. They know what they're doing and they've done a lot of it. Huge church windows and massive eight-foot pineapple images have come out of their large, glass-filled studio, the Glass Orchid Studio.
"Never step back in a glass studio," Ken said casually as one of us backed into a pile of stacked glass. He enthused about each piece of glass, holding several up to the light to show us their beauty. He has to love them--one church's windows had 1,200 pieces and 47 shades of color.
The same family scene greeted us at woodworker Paul Kasprzycki's Haiku home. Kasprzycki, his wife and daughter have only lived on land the past 18 months. Before that they lived on a boat Paul built. He learned woodworking by making boats--hundreds of small ones and half a dozen large ones. Now he makes furniture and art pieces.
Watercolorist David Ridgeway also lived on a boat, but in the Caribbean. Maui has him landlocked now, because "this is where I found inspiration," he says. "I started painting every day when I got here."
Still, much of his work is influenced by the water. He paints boats and pools and ocean scenes.
Silk clothing designer Diane Epstein paints abstract designs on expensive crepe de Chine silk.
Learn to Concentrate
"The whole thing is fraught with peril," she said in her fast-paced, bubbly New York style. "If the dye or the wax splashes, there's no way to take it out of the fabric. I have learned precise concentration."
She paints every piece of fabric by hand, then hires someone to sew scarfs and blouses. What she does is a form of batik, but done with cleaner, more sophisticated lines.
By day's end we bug-eyed tourists had been through an academy of art. That's the purpose--exposure to several media, each one explained by a Maui expert.
Genesis of the art tour began with a book put out by Judy Ivec's partner, Barbara Glassman. The book, "Maui Art and Creative People," features 50 artists and is in its second edition with 13,000 copies printed. To Glassman, an enthusiastic, can-do woman, the tour seemed a natural epilogue to the book. Only artists included in the book are on the tours.
The day-long event costs $150. That includes visits with at least four artists, a caviar and wine lunch (elegantly catered on a beach) and an end-of-day relaxation at a Haiku farm (hot tub available).
To make reservations, call (808) 572-1022 or write to P.O. Box 1058, Makawao, Maui, Hawaii 96768.