Summit (S): Tell us about growing up in Hawai‘i, and how that influences your work.
Jared Yamanuha (JY): I grew up in Waipahu and Mililani, attended public schools my entire life and, in retrospect, I’m certain that growing up in the suburbs had a major impact on my work. My only visual arts background was in graffiti. Fine art was not part of my life at all and, to be honest, I had absolutely no idea what contemporary art was until my mid-twenties.
As a kid, I went to the Honolulu Academy of Arts and The Contemporary Museum during field trips, but the most interesting places to look at “art” were the freeways and buildings and drainage canals that were painted by graffiti writers.
S: Much of your work incorporates food brands. Can you talk about those choices?
JY: The choices I make are dictated by the cultural tradition of omiyage—gift-giving. I start by asking a series of questions: Is this object something that I would give to someone as omiyage? If tourists were to come to Hawai‘i, would this be something that they would seek and offer as omiyage to their family and friends back home? Can I actually photograph the object or packaging? There were a lot of brands and objects that I wanted to include in this series, but the packaging wasn’t substantial enough to turn into a work.
That a lot of them are food brands has to do with the fact that I got most of my ideas for pieces by wandering the aisles of Longs Drugs and Don Quixote, specifically the Hawai‘i candy sections. In a way, Longs Drugs became my art supply store where I would get raw materials for pieces. s: What types of products would you like to see Hawai‘i entrepreneurs create, for future omiyage?
JY: I would love to see more food-related products, just due to the fact that food is such a natural entrée into a culture, and can be enjoyed by anyone. More to the point, from the perspective of someone who takes the packaging and transforms them into art objects, I would definitely like to see local brands working with young designers on new, fresh designs for their products.
S: What trends are you watching in the graffiti scene that inspire you?
JY: I’m really interested in how graffiti writers are slowly entering into the contemporary art world. Many of my favorite graffiti writers are represented by major art galleries, featured in museum exhibitions, and slowly gaining acceptance in the art world.