Esther Hi’ilani Candari’s pro-tip for 2023: “If you want to have a lot of amazing projects on your desk, tell yourself that you are going to slow down. It seems like that is when they always come out of the woodwork.”
The Hawai’i native now living in Utah County has a lot on her plate in 2023, from curatorial work to a solo show and even a book project — all of it centered on issues of identity and representation. They are two issues Candari explores in her own, primarily figurative, work, specifically multiracial identity gender at the intersections of religion, ecology and culture.
In May, Provo’s Writ & Vision will hang a group show Candari is curating, featuring artists with “connections to the Western half of the Pacific ocean” (mostly Polynesian and Asian). “It will explore the concept of islands, diasporic culture and grief, and the relationship between ecology, culture, and identity,” Candari says of the show, which will feature some of her own work. “As a mixed race individual of Asian descent who grew up in Hawai’i, telling the stories of the unique modern pan-pacific culture has always been near and dear to my heart as have efforts to promote the work and voices of others who are doing the same.”
In addition to exploring her racidentity as a religious individual, specifically a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is working on a resource book to be released in December which will compile images “that provide racially and aesthetically diverse alternatives” for use in religious education settings. It’s an extension of her thesis project at Liberty University, where she earned her MFA. “Christian art as a whole, but especially Latter-day Saint art has largely been confined to Eurocentric imagery for hundreds of years. And while many communities have come a long ways in separating white-supremacist ideas from Christian theology, mainstream Christian art does little to do the same. I feel deeply that it is my duty as a disciple of Christ to change that narrative.”
Along the same vein, she’s preparing for a solo show of religious work, which will open at Writ & Vision in November. “I will be exploring the ways in which traditional/conservative Christian imagery curates theology and religious history to fit a specific narrative rather than embracing the expansive diversity of actual history.”
“Overall one of the defining beliefs I hold as an artist is that my work is community work not individual work. That I owe it to my ancestors, family, friends, and neighbors to give back through the skills, opportunities, and gifts I have been given.”
In addition to her studio work, Candari teaches art for Southern Virginia University, manages programming at Writ & Vision, serves as the art editor for Wayfare magazine, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Dialogue Foundation.
You can view more of her work at hiilanifinearts.com.
UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.