Isle artist heading to Israel for one-month residency

Let Sleeping Wasps Lie (Photo courtesy of Amber Aguirre)

Let Sleeping Wasps Lie (Photo courtesy of Amber Aguirre)


Hawaii Island artist Amber Aguirre has been selected a recipient of one of just three prestigious international resident artist programs for 2013 by the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA).

The announcement was made late last month, presenting Aguirre with a one-month residency at the Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center in Israel.

“This is amazing, to be selected from among thousands of talented artists who competed for one of the residencies in 2013 is really incredible,” Aguirre said. “I’m still pinching myself.”

As the daughter of a holocaust survivor, the location of the center in Tel Aviv is even more meaningful, she said. Aguirre, a long-time resident of Kailua-Kona and an active member of the Hawaii Island art community, begins the month-long program in August.

The Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center promotes ceramic art and design in an atmosphere that is vibrant and engaging for professional artists as well as the general public.

Through its on-going activities it creates a dialogue between the various aspects of ceramics and its scope in the broad spectrum of material culture, according to its directors.

Aguirre also was the recipient of the coveted NICHE Award (a national arts awards program sponsored by NICHE magazine each year) for hand-built ceramics in March. Her winning piece is titled “Let Sleeping Wasps Lie.”

The awards program, now in its 24th year, celebrates excellence and innovation in America and Canadian fine crafts. This year some 40 professional artists were presented first place awards in 40 different categories.

Aguirre is the only artist from Hawaii to be honored in 2013.

“I was a finalist in the magazine’s contest for the past three years. I’m thrilled to finally be a winner in 2013,” Aguirre said.

Current and upcoming shows and exhibits of Aguirre’s work include:

* “Cycles of Life”, Holualoa Foundation of the Arts, Donkey Mill Art Center, Holualoa

* Teapots! 7th Annual Exhibition, Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery, Pittsburgh, Penn., April 5-June 10

* 30 Ceramic Sculptors, California Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, Natsoulas Gallery, Davis, Calif., April 26-28.

* Ceramics Annual of America, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, Calif., Sept. 12-15

* Artists of Hawaii, Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, Sept. 19-Nov. 24

Two of the most recent works completed by Aguirre for these upcoming shows are “the result of my distress about the Sandy Hook shootings,” she said. One is a ceramic teapot titled “Disturbed” and a ceramic figure titled “The Innocents.”

“I made my first ceramic piece when I was in kindergarten. It was a blue ashtray with my palm print in the middle. From the moment I saw that a malleable piece of dirt could be turned into a rock hard waterproof item, I was hooked on clay. Much later in my career – age 7 – I clinched a win in a local poster contest and I knew then I was destined to be an artist,” Aguirre said.

On a more serious note, she said, “I reference art, contemporary culture, religion, mythology and other forms of social determinism to engage my subjects in activities that confront the viewer with the results of the human condition.

“As the child of a Holocaust survivor, I was aware from a young age of the fear, apathy and victimization inherent in human cultures. I use human and anthropomorphic figures as the vehicle to explore the results of these prevalent emotions on society,” she added.

Aguirre received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Southern California, and a master’s degree in Art Education at San Francisco State University. She moved to Hawaii Island in 2001.

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