10 Emerging Contemporary Artists From Hawaii to Know

Wailana Kalama

With a community as small as the Hawaiian Islands, it’s easy to spot the giants in the art scene. Here are a few awesome contemporary artists to watch for as they curate eye-opening careers.

Wooden Wave Mural

Wooden Wave

Wooden Wave is a quirky creative team led by husband and wife Matt and Roxy Ortiz. Their hand-drawn murals and whimsical illustrations bring out the child within! Their appreciation of draftsmanship and detail manifest in artwork depicting a treehouse in the shape of Darth Vader, a bakery on an outrigger canoe, and unique topography inspired by origami. They’ve painted murals in Hawaii, California, Nevada and Washington, with exhibits stretching to the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Museum. Among their clients of visual design, they count comedian George Lopez, boxer Floyd Mayweather, and footwear company Olukai.

Emily Sewell

Emily Sewell is a Honolulu-based artist who works with fabric, fibers and embroidery. She’s interested in playful, delicate, and slow processes, finding inspiration in the simple and the mundane. You might have to hunt for a bit to find her work in an O’ahu gallery or at the street art festival POW WOW!, but once you do, you won’t be disappointed.

Surfjack Pool

Matthew Tapia

Matthew Tapia is probably best known for his postcard-perfect lettering at the bottom of the pool at Waikiki’s Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club. A renowned letter artist, Matt’s designs have appeared all over Hawaii in magazines, clothes brands, street murals, restaurant signage. Originally from O’ahu, he developed his skills in New York City before returning to the islands. He worked odd freelance gigs for Nike and other renowned companies before launching his most famous work in 2015: the widely Instagrammed iconic Surfjack pool.

Kalani Pe’a

Kalani Pe‘a quickly snapped into the spotlight earlier this year when his debut album E Walea won a Grammy for Best Regional Roots Music Album. Singer-songwriter Pe’a started singing when he was four years old to overcome a speech impediment. Now a teacher at Kamehameha Schools, he’s preparing music for his second album.

Mark Kushimi

Mark Kushimi

Mark Kushimi is a photographer and designer based in Honolulu, and the co-founder of the creative Contrast Magazine. His images run from portraits to landscapes, and he is drawn to quiet, undisturbed scenes of the islands. His work “Forever Drowning” is a series of photographs meditating on the ocean, a place with its own concepts of time and space.

Linda Bachrach

Enter the colorful world of Linda Bachrach, who paints nostalgic and delicate watercolors of cats. Inspired by Asian aesthetics, her vibrant materials range from Japanese ink sticks to Gansai mineral paints. Her original artwork appears on postcards, ceramic pendants, matte prints and more.

Kamea Hadar’s portrait of Beverly Noa

Kamea Hadar

Though Kamea Hadar’s art studies have taken him to Paris, Madrid and Tel Aviv, his work is making quite the scene in Hawaii. Currently residing in Honolulu, he’s a member of the Hawaii Arts Alliance and co-lead director of the local street art festival POW! WOW! His works magnify portraiture on a large-scale, as walls throughout the city become his canvas. Look for his work at the Polynesian Voyaging Society, the Sheraton Waikiki and Hawaiian Airlines.

Jason Dow

Craftsman and jeweler Jason Dow is a self-taught goldsmith and graduate of the Gemological Institute of America. He draws on Hawaiian and Asian styles, incorporating concepts of spirituality and ancient motifs into his designs. He crafts unique pendants, rings, cuffs and medallions with symbols of the lotus, Indian mandala, lanterns and East Indian Jali screens.

Mark Chai Lamp

Mark Chai

Mark Chai’s naturalist style transforms everyday table lamps and wooden furniture into expressions of the organic world. He rescues scrap metal from hospitals and scrapyards and large plastic barrels from the roadside, and shapes them back to natural beauty with curves and light. A recent plastic piece entitled “Colony” looks like a bee colony in an old tree, where “Hawaiian Land Grab” is a plastic barrel where extruding fingers grab lava rocks. Named by Honolulu magazine as “one of Hawaii’s hottest designers,” he’s won multiple awards and sold art to galleries, gift shops and designer hotels.

Brittni Paiva

Brittni Paiva is a Hilo native and one of the Big Island’s most accomplished ukulele players. She started playing piano at four years old, and is impressive on the slack-key guitar, synthesizer, loops, electric bass, drums, but it’s the ukulele where her music really shines. With elements of flamenco, jazz, Latin, reggae and classical music, she’s quickly become one of the up-and-coming local musicians to watch.

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