Kamea Hadar, who currently resides in Honolulu, is a mixed-media artist who recently participated in Pow Wow Hawai’i 2012. Raised in Hawai’i by his Japanese mother and Israeli father, Kamar’s work covers a wide range of media including painting and graphic illustration, revealing his unique cross-cultural upbringing. We talk to him about his recent contribution to the Pow Wow event…
What started you on the path that you are walking?
Drawing and painting was always a part of my life and my family always encouraged me to create art. I never had to fight for it so I took it for granted. After college I worked construction for a few years and learned to respect the value of a really hard day’s work but also realised how important it is to do what you love. Since then I have used my once-calloused hands for that purpose.
How did you get onboard with Pow Wow?
I was talking to my friend Daniel Ito one day and he mentioned that Jasper Wong was planning to do the second Pow Wow (the first was in Hong Kong) in his home town of Hawai’i. Ito also mentioned that he thought that Jasper was looking for a place to house all of the artists and was looking on the North Shore but was having a hard time finding a house big enough. Jasper and I went to high school together and when I heard that I felt like it was meant to be as my family was just finishing building our house at Utopium (our place on North Shore). Long story short, the Pow Wow artists were the first ever to live in the now famous Mobius house. I really believed in Pow Wow and together with the rest of our small group of directors have made Pow Wow into what it is today.
How was the experience for you?
It was amazing to have all these artists together in one place. The energy that a group like that can create is unbelievable, and because everything is open to the public we could also share it with everyone to see. It was a little nerve-racking to be in front of so many people but nice to share the experiences that I usually have alone in my studio.
Another great experience was when we weren’t working and went back to the house. We were so exhausted from painting all day but would still stay up all night just talking and messing around. The house really added to the experience. Instead of everyone being in separate rooms in a hotel we lived together like one big crazy family. We shared stories, funny websites, videos, and art, and every year I feel like I have a bigger and bigger family sprinkled around the globe.
You have travelled widely. How has this affected your outlook?
My parents travel a lot and raised me to do the same. My mom grew up in Hawai’i and my dad in Israel and they actually met while travelling in Spain. I travelled around the world for the first time on their backs when I was six months old. They felt that instead of sending me to private school, a childhood of travel would be just as worthwhile an education. Experiencing other cultures, meeting other people and seeing other places helps me to have a more open mind and enriches my art.
What informs your art? Where do you draw inspiration from?
I try to see the beauty in everything. My ideas and inspirations come in all shapes and sizes and my looking for inspiration is not something that I ever turn off. I come up with the craziest ideas at the most random times. The idea for one of my paintings entitled Mahai for example, came to me when I was out partying with my friend Damien who is a banana farmer. I was thinking about how we had surfed and fished that day, were out at the club that night and then I dropped him off in the back of Pololo Valley at his farm at the end of the night. It made me think of Man’s varying connection to nature and gave me the idea for the painting.
Your art contains a lot of mouths and faces. What is behind that?
Growing up painting I was always scared to paint people. The human form, and more specifically a face, is in my opinion one of the hardest things to paint as the human eye is so conditioned to look at faces. As I got older I purposely pushed myself to paint portraits and slowly my paintings became more and more realistic until I became a pretty polished copy machine.
In recent years I have started to strip back down my portraits. I stopped painting backgrounds, cropped out unneeded elements and experiment with negative space. The mouths, faces, eyes, etc. that I paint are my learning how to communicate more with less and trying to use the conditioned human eye to my advantage.
Who is your favourite artist at the moment?
One of my all-time favourites has always been El Greco, especially when I was living in Spain and got to see some of his works in person. Feeling the presence of a piece of artwork can be powerful. I always get in trouble because I stick my nose right up onto the canvas to try to pick out individual brushstrokes and see the artists process. I loved watching some of the guys paint during Pow Wow and this year really loved watching Sam Rodriguez. His work seems to flow so easily and blows my mind.
What is next for you? Where to from here?
I’m always trying to challenge myself and push my work to the next level. Staying really busy forces me to constantly paint and think. I have a few shows and commissions lined up and of course I work on Pow Wow year-round, but the project I’m most excited about is a book that I am doing about my grandfather in Israel. I recently lived in Israel for a period and while there recorded his life story. The book will be a collection of texts and paintings depicting his childhood as a Jew in Poland, him fleeing his home as the Nazis were invading on his 20th birthday, his survival of the Holocaust and helping to build Israel after the war. The book not only tells his story but looks at the relationship of his generation to mine. I’m always trying to learn about my roots and where I am from so that I can have a better idea of where I’m going.
Having lived in various places internationally, do you feel like your work is relevant to a specific place or time?
Much of my work takes inspiration from places and themes that are close to home and do have imagery that grounds it in a certain place or time. Regardless of these elements I try to make work that is visually striking enough that at least on an aesthetic level can be universally appreciated. My work is still so young and I still have so much more to learn but one day I hope to paint something that can transcend geography and time.
Hawai’i is a special place for you, whereas many other artists involved in Pow Wow would not have the same affinity with this location. From your perspective, how do you feel about the creativity that Pow Wow injects into the community?
Growing up here has definitely made me biased, but most of the people who come to the islands quickly share the same love that I have for Hawai’i. I feel that the relationship between Hawai’i and the Pow Wow guests is a mutually beneficial one. The creativity and differing worldviews brought by our visiting artists enrich our islands, while the beautiful backdrop and incredibly rich culture inspire the artists. There is no place that I know of where so many different types of people are mixed together, so bringing in these artists from across the globe only adds to the flavour.
See more of Kamea’s work at kameahadar.com