Photography teacher Alison Beste in landmark Bay Area art exhibition - Mid-Pacific Institute

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Photography teacher Alison Beste in landmark Bay Area art exhibition

Tropical Disturbance: A guide to place making + contemporary art in Hawaiʻi

Posted on February 6, 2018 by Scot Allen

Tropical Disturbance: A guide to place making + contemporary art in Hawaiʻi 

Mid-Pacific photography teacher Alison Beste participated in a group show at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco. This exhibition featured the work of 10 artists and is considered to be the Bay Area's first group show of critical contemporary art by artists of Hawaiʻi. The show will remain open until Feb. 23.

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"Tropical Disturbance: A guide to place making + contemporary art in Hawaiʻi" was curated by Trisha Lagaso Goldberg, Mid-Pacific graduate and mother of freshman Primo Goldberg. She works at the Hawai'i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. 

Beste attended the opening reception that featured an amazing gathering of folks with Hawai'i ties. Bay Area-based Kumu Hula Patrick Makuakane and his hula halau Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu performed throughout the evening, as did Kumu Hula Alena Heim of the Honolulu hula group Hālau Hula Kamaluokalauaʻe. 

"I am so thankful that the school allowed me to participate in the opening and the installation," Beste said. "It was an amazing experience because there were a lot of people who came to the opening who had Hawaii ties. We felt a lot of Aloha and the energy there was palpable. One of my favorite openings ever!"

According to Beste, the show is about "unpacking" the term "a Hawaiʻi sense of place." She noted that Goldberg selected artists who are looking at Hawaiʻi through many different lenses: geographical, political, environmental, cultural... 

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Artists at the opening reception.

One of Beste's projects--hung in a large grouping floating on the gallery wall--takes on an abstract quality that calls to mind the paintings of Mark Rothko. A closer look reveals the truth. Each colored panel reveals the otherworldly glow of Oahu's sky as seen from the western shores of Molokai. Another installation featured Beste's Oil Tanker Sunsets which presents oil barges at sea as both stereotypical sunset postcards and abstract explosions of light on the ocean horizon. 

"The tanker series looks at what powers the island," she said. "How long could we survive if these tankers stopped coming? What actually powers this place and allows current civilization to exist here? As for the Light Pollution project, it's awfully hard to know your impact on the environment when you are in the middle of it. If you step away to, say Molokai, the extensive impact of light pollution is much more visible."

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Alison Beste with Mid-Pacific freshman Primo Goldberg at the opening reception.


She is a big believer in printing her work. "Whether it be digital or film. Images can often live online but I think a physical object really changes the experience. It's a crucial part of my photographic practice. A print on the wall has a different presence than an icon on Instagram. Viewers are an important part of the art practice too. How people understand and respond to your work and question it is so important. Learning from viewers can be really informative."

As a photographer and a teacher, she has noticed that the practice of photography is changing. "It is a much more instantaneous and glamorous sport now, and to make it into an art and a more thought-provoking, slower exploration takes care and patience and time. I hope to challenge students to think about why they make the images they make. What unique perspective do they have to share with the world?"

Why does she photograph? "A camera is a license to explore the world," she said. "It allows you to see your environment in ways that you wouldn't normally be able to do. I haven't gotten tired of that process. It is still very exciting to me help others see the world through a lens."