Sidney Yee - Painting

Matt Tuohy
By Matt Tuohy
Friday - July 04, 2008


Sidney Yee
Sidney Yee

Sidney Yee - Painting

The recent works of Maui painter Sidney Yee, titled “Middle Ground,” are currently on display at the Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center from now through mid-September.

“(The paintings) had to do with finding a place where we can make compromises and find solutions that satisfy multiple concerns,” says the retired art teacher. “It really had to do with a reference to the environment vs. progress -the man-made structures that are becoming a part of our daily lives.”

Yee referred to one of his paintings, called “Underlying Overtones,“that features a scenic view of a valley with angular structures painted over the scene, meant to comment on interstate construction like the H-3.“Some of the paintings are on the negative side - criticizing overdevelopment,” Yee says.

He also described how the paintings are meant to pose the question between development and nature, and then allow his viewers to find their own middle ground. “I find that painting gives me a sense of identity,” he says.“It’s a growth process, and if you stop exploring, life becomes a little less interesting.”

Like 'Grandmother,' (pictured top right), Yee used Chinese newspaper as his canvas for other works
Like ‘Grandmother,’ (pictured top right), Yee used Chinese newspaper as his canvas for other works

Yee was raised in Waipahu and earned his degree in secondary art education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.He spent several years teaching art at Leilehua High School as well as running the art program at Lahainaluna High School on Maui.“I miss it a lot,“Yee says.“I miss working with my students - especially the ones who share my interests and have a sense that art is an important part of our lives. I also miss helping them grow and find out what art means to them.”

He also says that teaching art is almost more stimulating than creating art itself.

Yee currently teaches art to senior citizens through Kaunoa Senior Services on Maui.

Yee's painting, 'Grandmother,'
Yee’s painting, ‘Grandmother,’ is painted on Chinese newspaper, which he says gives it another dimension.

“I had to go back to teaching and I found this really great venue,” he says.

Though his specialty is in ceramics, Yee picked up painting about 12 years ago while teaching. “I switched to painting because I felt a little bit more expression in it,” he says.“I could explore ideas that I had and not be concerned with the technical aspect of putting art together.” He described some of his work as three-dimensional in terms of the techniques he uses. In his piece “Grandmother,” Yee uses shredded Chinese newspapers as the surface for the scene, which is of a grandmother and her grandson at a marketplace similar to Chinatown.

“It’s kind of collage materials that give it texture and activate the surface a little more.”

For 'Underlying Overtones,
For ‘Underlying Overtones,’ Yee outlines angular structures over an existing cove, posing the question of development at the cost of nature

Yee’s work also can be found in the collection of the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, and the Honolulu Academy of Arts. For more information on the exhibition or the museum,call 526-0232.



Get Spirited Away

Honolulu Academy of Arts will host a small film festival featuring four full-length animated movies by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki.

The films will be screened July 12-18 at Doris Duke Theatre as a part of the academy’s Asian Sensation summer theme,which also includes three art exhibitions and lectures by art scholars.

Aside from being one of the most celebrated Japanese animators, he’s probably the most classic,“says the theater’s guest curator Steve Mobley.“All of his stories have real integrity and are just so entertaining.”

The films being screened are My Neighbor Totoro,Porco Rosso,Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle (see sidebar for dates and times).All four films are meant to contribute to the theme of the summer at the academy, even though the content of each film isn’t always based in the Asian community.“Miyazaki does non-cultural specific story - like Porco Rosso, for instance,takes place in the Adriatic around Italy,” says Mobley. “But Totoro and Spirited Away are definitely classics of Japanese culture.” This is mainly because of the mythological spirits each hero encounters on his journeys in each movie, he adds.

Screen shot of Miyazaki's film Porco Rosso to be shown July 14 and 15 at the Doris Duke Theatre
Screen shot of Miyazaki’s film Porco Rosso to be shown July 14 and 15 at the Doris Duke Theatre

Miyazaki’s most notable film is the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, which was featured throughout the country in 2003.

I’d have to say my favorite is My Neighbor Totoro,“says Mobley.“It’s got a lot going for it. It has two strong, young girls as the heroes living out in the country, and they’re being exposed to things ‘we’re not supposed to believe in.’”

Mobley isn’t sure if the movies will be presented in Japanese or the English-dubbed version, but hopes for the English version. “I’m pretty sure the (films) we’re getting are the English-dubbed versions,” he says. “Which is OK, because I like both - watching the films with the Japanese and English subtitles - but for the family presentation, I think the English translation will be easier on our audience.”

All are family films. Admission is $7 for non-members; $6 for senior citizens, students and military; $5 for museum members; and $3 for children under 12.For more information,call 532-8700 or visit

My Neighbor Totoro

July 12 and 13 at 1 and 7:30 p.m.

Porco Rosso

July 14 at 7:30 p.m. and July 15 at 1 and 7:30 p.m.

Spirited Away

July 16 and 17 at 1 and 7:30 p.m.

Howl’s Moving Castle

July 18 1 and 7:30 p.m.


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