talk story

contemporary art speaks to our generation – kristen chan


Our “talk story” narratives arise from our drive to know more about intriguing residents of Hawai’i, art and culture.  The format is simple and casual – we meet face to face, pose a few straightforward questions, shoot some photos and document the conversation as it naturally evolves. Whatever cool thing we discover is available here for all that want to tune in and get the scoops too.

Debuting as a docent at the Contemporary Museum of Art nearly twenty years ago, Kristen Chan’s contribution to our community is immeasurable. A generous benefactor who also serves as Board Vice President for both the Honolulu Biennial Foundation (HBF) and the Hawai’i International Film Festival (HIFF), her quest is ensure our city offers not only our mountains & ocean but also art & culture to nourish our souls. We knew that writing about her would make her blush so we chose to write to her instead.

Dear Kristen,

With your son off to college, like many, you are electing to embrace a new chapter of life. Already immersed in organizing the annual Hawaii Film Festival and the 2019 Honolulu Biennial you’re also passionate about Ikebana Sogetsu which we knew nothing about. Your “talk story” about life, the importance of art and it’s profound impact resonated with us too. We agree, contemporary art does speak to our generation and we are touched that you shared so openly.

After our visit, we googled Ikebana Sogetsu and Choi Jeong Hwa, the artist who made the lei Chrissy photographed. Results on him confirmed that this Korean artist has “rock star” status. His reputation made it all the more impressive that he worked on site at Honolulu Hale. There he constructed the “Gather Together” installation for the inaugural 2017 Honolulu Biennial. This is where the back story on your unique lei began.

We have a confession. When you first put on Choi Jeong Hwa’s “lei” we only saw a lei constructed of colorful plastic objects. Thoughtfully, you slipped into “docent” mode to educate us and explained that the plastic objects were actually old fishing net floats that had washed up on our shores. That’s exactly what’s so cool about contemporary art – discovery. This artist was able to revive and transform floats littering our beach into an au courant lei – clever, environmentally friendly and gracious. Thank you sensei – for helping us comprehend the reasons his lei is a treasure to you. While he presented it to you as a gesture of appreciation and respect, he also symbolically passed on a part of himself.

It’s the same with your Ikebana Sogetsu right?  Just a hunch based on your enthusiasm and stunning arrangements. You have motivated us to learn more about this art and we are toying with the idea of becoming your students. Seishu, the name given by your sensei translates to gentle autumn. So Seishu –  will you take us on? We’d like to experience the bliss and euphoria of seeking plant materials the way you do. We were left wondering if nature is the core of the “simplicity” of your arrangements?

Let’s get together soon, ideally over flutes of champagne, to talk more about this & anything or everything else. You are animated, warm and engaging and we find you remarkable!

Sending all our Aloha,

Laura and Chrissy xoxo

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