Carolyn Quan - Photography

Matt Tuohy
By Matt Tuohy
Friday - September 05, 2008


Carolyn Quan

Carolyn Quan - Photography

While some look at Carolyn Quan’s photography as a little over the top, she feels each piece has several layers to keep her audience looking for - and finding - new things every time.

Most are collages of stills taken with her 35mm camera, that are then scanned into a computer. She uses Photoshop to get the many colorful layers into each piece, which range in size, complexity and theme.

“(It’s) because I have so much in my brain,” Quan explains before bursting into laughter.“I don’t have anywhere else to put it.”

When Quan worked as a graphic designer in New York making album covers for musicians, she would often be told her designs weren’t always what customers were looking for.“For almost every project, the clients would always say, ‘Oh there’s too much, it’s too busy, it’s too complicated.’ By the time the project was done, I’d just be in tears.” She jests that her uninhibited art is the result of repression from those days as a designer.

Sweet Dreams
Pieces like Sweet Dreams (above) and Thinking of You

Quan’s pictures encompass many themes from nudes to nature. However, none is the simplistic photo you may take of your friends or as a hobby. Each one has at least eight hours - in some cases 80- of work to get the desired effect the Canadian-born artist is looking for. The pieces turn out as colorful collages, sometimes with several focal points in each picture.

“I tend to think in layers and multi-task, and there’s always a lot of non-linear things going on in my brain,” she says. “I think it kind of comes out on the canvas.”

The pictures are all processed differently, however, rather than just printed onto photo paper. “The picture then goes onto a canvas, where it is hand numbered and signed. So it’s a limited edition,” she explains. “This will give it collector’s value since there are a limited amount produced.”

Quan has her own gallery in Waikiki inside the lobby of the Aqua Waikiki Wave Hotel on Kuhio Avenue and will be there next Thursday night to meet with art patrons. “It’s kind of a night with the artist,” she explained.“And I think we’re going to have the one year anniversary in October and do the night with the artist thing again on Saturday nights.”

A shot with a 35mm camera, scanned into a computer and then processed with Photoshop

She opened the shop last year after closing her old one on Maui and moving to Oahu. “It’s working out really well,” she said on the gallery progression. “I’m recognizing in Waikiki there are so many international travelers that we didn’t get on Maui, since more of the tourists there are from the Mainland.”

Quan received an education in graphic design with a minor in photography from the Ontario College of Art and Design. She has designed album art for artists such as Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, The Grateful Dead and more.

For more information about Quan or her gallery, call 922-7826 or visit



Marc Turner’s Body Surfer , will be on display at the gallery

The Bethel Street Gallery, owned and operated by artists Marc Turner and Scottie Flamm, will feature a special exhibition called The Nude Show. Nineteen local artists will supply the gallery with about 40 pieces in several different mediums including photography, water-color, oil paints and mixed media.

“A lot of people think Hawaii is a liberal state, but we really aren’t, I think,” says Turner.“This is a way to show some (art) that is fairly commonplace everywhere else, but it’s not something that most galleries show or people paint because there aren’t opportunities to show them (in Hawaii).”

Turner maintains nudes are important in art because it is a classic theme. “It’s always been something that people have done and trained to paint. I think we’ve gotten away from that, but there is a definite beauty to the human body in all shapes and sizes and forms.”

Chris Campbell’s Tete-A-Tete

Local favorites Pegge Hopper, Snowden Hodges and Kim Taylor Reece will show their interpretations of the classic subject.“All of the artists are well-known, not just for nudes,” says Turner.“It’s going to be an interesting show.”

Turner was not able to say if the show is completely appropriate for an audience of all ages, but says everything he’s had in so far looks tasteful. “They’re pretty tame,” Turner says. “They’re either classical nudes or parts of the body.”

The gallery specializes in showcasing local artists and has been around since the renaissance of Chinatown.

Isis Godfrey-Byrne ‘s Seated Nude

“We’ve been pioneers in terms of helping with the arts district and getting it cleaned up,” says Turner. “And it seems in the last six months it may have taken a half-step backward, but we’re determined to get people down into Chinatown.”

The show will run through Sept. 27. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

For more information on the gallery, call 524-3552 or visit

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