Drawn primarily from the Honolulu Museum of Art’s collection and supplemented with some loans, Natural Unnatural Supernatural focuses on themes of nature (landscape, seascape, animals, birds, insects, flowers, etc.) as artists have depicted them, ranging from “naturalistic” representations to images that are unnatural in terms of color or activity to others that are surreal in the way appearances and expectations are altered.
The installation is divided into sections dealing with individual subjects, and historical works from earlier periods are juxtaposed with contemporary works. A section on water includes Joseph Raffael’s Water Painting IV, which is almost photorealistic. A landscape section comprises Claudio Bravo’s drawing of rocks paired with Linda Connor’sphotograph Rocks, Ka’u Desert, Hawaii, as well as works by Tom Uttech, Masami Teraoka, Neil Welliver, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Robert Lobe, Allyn Bromley, and Satoru Abe.
The middle section of the gallery is devoted to animals. A salon-style wall of dog images in all media includes works by William Wegman, Ed Ruscha, Esther Shimazu, Marvin Israel, Gwynn Murrill, Jean Dubuffet, Michael Mazur, a Han dynasty tomb figure of a dog, and a ceramic figure of a dog from Veracruz in ancient Mexico. Another section is about cats, particularly big cats (e.g. lions, tigers), pairing Melissa Miller’s painting Leopard’s Dance with the two late 18th- to early 19th-century inlaid marble leopards attributed to Francesco Franzoni and Antoine-Louis Barye’s bronzes of a walking tiger and walking lion, as well as a bronze sculpture of a bobcat by Gwynn Murrill, and Hawai’i artist Joey Chiarello’s newly completed ceramic tiger. Beth Cavener Stichter’s huge ceramic wall sculpture of a goat, which is mechanized so that air blows from its mouth and moves a pinwheel, is a focal point of the space. Another wall about birds has a spectacular monumental watercolor of a condor by Walton Ford, as well as paintings by Hunt Slonem and Rebecca Morales.
Many more works depict reptiles, deer, monkeys, and insects, including a surprise installation by Maui artist Michael Takemoto. Flowers and plants round out the gallery, including a section of Thomas Woodruff’s Apple Canon, a painted bronze sculpture of a magnolia branch by David Bates, and the museum’s popular painting of peonies by Henri Fantin-Latour.