Digital Decade: The Painted Pixel:The Hawaii Computer Art Society's 10th Annual Membership Show

Article in Sunday Honolulu Advertiser, July 12, 1998


Queen Emma Gallery, Honolulu, Hawaii

Through July 25

By Quala-Lynn Bancroft

I've seen many shows at Queen Emma Gallery featuring inspired, aesthetic, provocative and interesting works of art from both mature and emerging artists. These shows were a pleasure and an adventure. I cannot say the same of "Digital Decade: The Painted Pixel."

The show exhibits the work of 16 members of The Hawaii Computer Art Society, an organization of computer artists dedicated to producing and promoting digital fine art.

Computer art has been an outcast from the "fine arts" world since its inception. It has of been criticized for being too mechanical, too cold, too fast, too easy, even for having no soul.

I was hoping to find works that proved these accusations wrong, for I certainly believe the opposite can be true. As I viewed the exhibition, however, I found myself thinking that, a few pieces excepted, these works were vacant.

Among the 58 images, I kept searching for some spark of life, for something that would, in some way, move me. I found it in Ray O'Leary's "Family Portrait". His symbolic portrayal of three men - two with covered faces and one with a rip down his body - stopped and held me, stirred me to question, to appreciate, and ponder the viewpoint of the artist. Within a few minutes I found myself reflecting on my family with its own peculiarities and struggles.

One of the goals of The Hawaii Computer Art Society is to elevate the acceptability of computer art in the realm of fine art of the 21st century. The society also informs us that while computer art uses the most modern of mediums, it begins in the same way as art works produced in a more traditional manner: with a vision.

Some work looks like high-tech doodles, probably fun to produce but leaving me with a "so what" feeling. Others attempt landscapes with cliched compositions and imitative painterly qualities. Simulated watercolor seascapes by Elizabeth Zinn contain none of the life and breath, translucency and light of an original watercolor.

Most of the work is what I would call greeting card material, decorative and superficial, giving a fleeting pleasure to the eye.

There are, however, a few works that, while they may not be the most inspired images, do have merit.

Bobby Crocket has a great sense of design. Her work displays strong and unusal compositions and wonderful combinations of colors and textures.

Claude Horan lets his spirit show in a delightfully childlike way and his "Easy Rider" has an indelible sense of fun.

Ray O'Leary continues to speak with "Attraction" and "Imaginary Ancestor #7."

What's good about the exhibition is that it shows a wide variety of image-making techniques that can be achieved witha computer. Sadly, it gives few hints at what comprises artistic vision, which is where it all must begin. Bottom line: Facile use of an artist's tools does not an artist make.