What struck me the most about the exhibit was the enormous diversity of her work. Most artists develop distinctive styles but Harue seems to have resisted that tendency. Instead, she experimented with all sorts of forms and colors over the years. The quality of the pieces and the vision she showed in making them was inspiring and a little intimidating. Most of the pieces are made of clay, but some are made of bronze, some are clay with bronze additions, and she also used resins and concrete.
I took photos of every piece in the exhibit and have included them below. There were no descriptions included, no names of pots or dates when they were made, just numbers so the gallery could keep track of who owned what. Some of the pieces are from local museums, some are from local collections, but most are from Harue's personal collection.
While photographing the pieces, my camera began to run out of energy and the little red light began blinking on the screen. I still had a third of the exhibit to photograph, so I was moving as fast as I could to finish everything up, more than a little annoyed that I hadn't charged the battery up. When I got to the last set of pots, I was anxiously photographing each piece, sure that the camera would stop working on the next to last pot. I had been the only one in the gallery the whole time, except for the college student who sat at the front desk. Then when I was almost done, I heard a voice booming behind me: "Where did all these pots come from?" I turned around to see an old woman with a walker talking to the student at the front desk. "Look at all this stuff," she said. "Look at all this stuff," she said over and over as she started strolling through the gallery. "Great," I thought, "some old lady comes in off the street who doesn't know the first thing about ceramics and starts making ridiculous comments." A man came in behind her and asked the student at the front desk if he could look at the price list. "Sure," she said, and pulled out a yellow legal pad. I was feeling a little irritated at this point since I'd asked the student earlier if there was a price list and had been told "No." So there was a price list after all. The man caught up with the older woman just as she was going near the back. "You know," he said, "some of these pots should be in a study collection. Take the tea pots, for example. I bet students would really be inspired by them and could learn a lot by studying them." I walked over to them and said, "That's right. I think these would be a great resource for students. These pots are amazing!" The man looked at the woman and said, "Did you hear what he said?" "What?" she said. "He said these pots are amazing." "Humph," was all she said. I began looking more closely at a few pots I especially admired when I heard the man say, "I talked to Jay Jensen (Curator of Contemporary Art at the Honolulu Museum of Art) the other day and he said they were interested in some of the pieces but that they didn't have room for the entire collection." Then I realized who the "old woman" might be. "Is that the artist?" I asked the student at the front desk. "Yes. She's here to decide what will go home with her and what she'll need to let go of." I walked to the back again and asked her, "Are you the artist? Are you Harue?" She smiled and said, "I guess I'm the one responsible for all of this!" And then we began talking. We walked around the gallery for awhile and I was asking her about glazes and techniques she used to make certain pots. With some pots she could only say, "You know, I made that pot about 60 years ago. I don't remember making it, but I've always liked it." There was a section that had a collection of her cuttlefish and I asked her why she was so interested in them. "Well," she said, "we used to eat a lot of squid when I was growing up. I still eat it, so I know quite a bit about squid. The hardest part, though, is coming up with a good representation of their tentacles." We looked at one of her sculptural pieces and I asked her what was going through her mind when she was designing it and making it. "Oh, I don't know. I didn't really think about it. If I thought about everything I made I'd have gone crazy. Just one thing led to another, you know, one thing led to another." We didn't talk too long. I knew she was making important decisions about what few pots would go home with her and what would have to be dispersed in some way. As I was getting ready to leave the gallery, I snapped two more photos of Harue looking at her own work. Seeing them again reminds me of the poignancy of the moment. After working in clay for over 60 years, Harue was saying goodbye to some of her favorite creations.
Hardcover and softcover catalogs of the exhibition are available by contacting Kurt McVay at www.haruemcvay.com.