Michele Zalopany “Nānā i Ke Kumu - Pay Attention to the Source”

steven harvey fine art projects

poster for Michele Zalopany “Nānā i Ke Kumu - Pay Attention to the Source”
[Image: Michele Zalopany "Waipio" (2015) pastel on canvas, 50 x 70 in.]

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Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects presents Nānā i Ke Kumu, “Pay Attention to the Source,” a new group of water color and pastel paintings by Michele Zalopany. Part native Hawai’ian, Zalopany spent her formative years in Detroit and Hawai’i and has previously used both locations as sources for her work.

In the early 1980s, Zalopany began using generic photographs that she found in library picture collections, old books, and flea markets. Her 80s work had a literally noir-ish quality resulting from the rich velvety carbon blacks of her hybrid drawing/ paintings.

The images, made to serve other purposes, took on additional meanings when rendered with charcoal on a large scale. This led her to accessing the digitized photography collection of the Hawai’i State Archives. Photographs dating back to the late 1800s revealed the faces of indigenous Hawaiian women, in which Zapolapy recognized herself. She saw in their faces and hers the confluence of 19th century colonialism, Darwinism, ethnography, and photography. She became especially interested in the use of photography for political and economic gain, while she was seeking to understand the roots of her own family.

Zalopany’s father was native Hawaiian and her mother was Polish. Zalopany was born in Detroit in 1955, and in 1959, Zalopany’s father moved them to Hawai’i. After a year, they returned to Detroit, which was still in the throws of Jim Crow era segregation. Zalopany’s father, being of hapa Hawai’in descent, was often mistaken as African-American by whites and subjected to prejudicial treatment. Zalopany, who inherited her mother’s fair skin and light green eyes, speaks of the anger and bewilderment she experienced at other’s “unsolicited, and mistaken gender assignment,” which she attributes to her masculine, aboriginal features.

“What I desire, by rendering these early photographs and others, including those of my ohana (family), is to re-present not represent Hawaiian people as the real, profoundly important human beings that we are, by destroying the narrative propagandized by colonizers with commercial intentions and to begin, in my small way, to reconstitute the original culture of Hawaiian people… I’m hoping that by putting more images of an older Hawaiian reality out into the world, I may provoke interest in the true history of the Hawaiian people and their land, and thus chip away at the false narrative that overwhelms most peoples’ current perception.”

Zalopany notes the gradual changes of people and places imposed by the colonists. She states, “The colonists progressively destroyed what they had found, and constructed a space in which to conduct their commercial interests. The bodies of the Hawaiian people were there to serve the colonists and their interests in that constructed space. A narrative, created by those in power, who didn’t recognize the value of an ancient culture of the indigenous people, had to be produced and augmented to edify those commercial interests. This was done by erasing the original culture through various means, then distorting, mythologizing and romanticizing fragments of what they thought they desired.”

Michele Zalopany’s photo-based work is included over twenty-five permanent international collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Eli Broad Collection, the USB collection, the Walker Art Center, the Carnegie Institute, and others. She has been a guest lecturer at the American Academy in Rome, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Middlebury College, and others. She was a Visiting Lecturer of Visual Arts at Harvard University 2007-2008 & 2009. Since 2001, she has been a professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. This is her first solo show with steven harvey fine art projects.



from February 12, 2020 to March 15, 2020

Opening Reception on 2020-02-12 from 18:00 to 20:00

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