Suzy Papanikolas - Painter

Matt Tuohy
By Matt Tuohy
Friday - November 21, 2008


Suzy Papanikolas - Painter

For painter Suzy Papanikolas, her portraits of Hawaiians performing hula, paddling or preparing for an activity are as much historical artifacts as they are artistic.

“I just think (Hawaiians are) so beautiful, and I get so excited anytime I’m around a cultural event,“she says.“It’s just fun for me to be a part of that - get to know the kumu; just see what I can do to help promote the culture in my own way. I feel like I’m more of a historian than an artist.”

After traveling around the South Pacific, Papanikolas decided to make her home on Maui, where, working as a caretaker for a vacation rental, she was able to establish herself as an artist. She now resides on the Big Island close to Hilo.“It’s a wild little place,“she laughs.“There’s pigs all around; it’s in the middle of a cane field, but it’s just so beautiful during the day.”

Her secluded environment gives her plenty of time and space to paint her subjects, which are converted from photos. “The way I paint, I take photographs at cultural events, and then come back and reproduce my images pretty close to the photo,” she explains.“I don’t like to deviate from the image that much just because I want to record it. I think it’s just beautiful as it is.”

When asked why she doesn’t just take pictures,Papanikolas says she isn’t a photo realist.“I’m looser than that,“she says.“I think there’s something in the artist’s hand that’s a little looser, that gives life and an excitement to the image that just the photography can make.“She also says she can add texture to her paintings, whereas photos are mostly flat.

Papanikolas has had art in her life since it began. Her mother was a watercolor painter and sculptor, and her father started an art school in Laguna Beach. She was educated in watercolors from an early age, but spent most of her higher-education years studying anthropology at the University of Texas, world literature at San Francisco State University and psychology at Lone Mountain College.

But this doesn’t mean she didn’t spend time honing her artistic skills in school. She also spent time at the San Francisco Art Institute for painting, studied privately at the Gale Lawrence Studio, and studied with watercolor artist Karen Frye.

Some of Papanikolas’ work is currently on display at Café Che Pasta restaurant and also can be found in art galleries on Maui and the Big Island.

For more information or to view her works, visit


Papanikolas says she likes to paint her subjects before they perform, rather than during


Members of the Convergence Dance Theatre (CDT) are starting up their performances after a yearlong hiatus with their new show ReVision.

The hour-and-a-half-long show is a mixture of several styles of dance spread out in seven pieces, each with a special theme or meaning behind it that differs from choreographer to choreographer.

“Each (piece) has a different perspective on relationships and reactions to the environment around us,” says CDT’s artistic director, Jennifer Shannon. “For example, three of the choreographers we have are new here. So they’re still getting adjusted to this new place, new surroundings and how certain things are. So there are different ways in processing that.And for me,I worked from an environmental, landscape perception for visual inspiration.”

All the pieces performed are original works by four choreographers in the group. “We have a really hard-edged piece and a duet fromMoonlight Sonata, which is a Bach piece and very traditional modern dance,“says Shannon.“And then there’s another piece that has gospel music that is very meditative and sweet.”

The 11-member dance group will perform several different styles of dance

Some of the pieces also include some multi-media, like video projections and sculptures.

The collaborative theatre group was founded in 2003 with four members from the UH Dance School and the surrounding community.The group fell apart,however, because each member had other obligations.

“We had several (members) move, some of them had babies,” says Shannon, who herself was busy starting her own dance studio,“so we haven’t performed for over a year. And then this group of performers got together, and this is the first full-length performance that we’ve been performing around town since August.”

CDT currently has 11 dancers including its choreographers, who create and practice dances out of The Dance Space, Shannon’s studio where she also teaches classes for children and adults.

Though Shannon says the group is a good size, she says it would be nice to have more men join.“This is the first time we’ve had a concert without any male dancers,” she says. “They are in short supply, especially in Honolulu.”

ReVision takes place at The ARTS at Marks Garage at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $10 in advance, $12 at the door, and students with ID receive a $2 discount. They can be purchased at

“I think this is an exciting show because of the diversity of the choreography,“says Shannon.“You’re not going to see the same thing. All the pieces are quite different.”

For more information on the group, visit


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