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O’Malley displays works made of native plant materials

May 30, 2014 - 12:05am

Three-dimensional fiber sculptural works by Susan O’Malley will be on display Sunday through June 30 at Living Arts Gallery in Hawi. An artist open house and talk story is planned from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. June 11. Refreshments and birthday cake will be served as the gallery celebrates its fifth birthday and King Kamehameha Day.

Her most recent body of work, “Off the Grid,” debuts during the monthlong exhibition. This show represents new works created during the past two years at residencies at the Anderson Center in Red Wing, Minn., and a residency in February at One Island Sustainable Farm in Honaunau. She took her Hawaiian plant materials with her to Red Wing, and while there created a 3-D honeycomb piece named “Elepaio,” after the Hawaiian bird, since it contains the colors of the native bird. This piece was accepted into the juried Hawaii Craftsman show in 2013.

O’Malley is also using her creative talents and ingenuity to design her own handmade house in Ocean View. Her studio and house, nestled among ohia trees on land that is off the electric grid, seems most appropriate for a woman who is devoted to using native plant materials for her works of art.

O’Malley’s fiber arts are made of natural materials, with vegetable dyes created from leaves, bark and roots of plants. Her designs are abstracts of bird feathers, plant formations, Hawaiian legends and natural features. The sculptures are the fruit of a long process, one that begins with harvesting plants by machete, then chopping, soaking, beating, cooking and transforming plant fibers into pulp. Hand-built structures are dipped into a vat of pulp 30 times to create the desired effect. Some pieces include sewing layers of handmade paper into designs, which O’Malley does with her sewing machine and generator.

She has also begun earning international acclaim. Her work, “Maui’s Kite,” made with wauke fibers harvested with permission from the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden and dyed with hibiscus blossoms and mao bark has been accepted into the eighth Triennial Paper Art Competition and Exposition at the Musee de Charmey in Charmey, Switzerland.

The gallery is located at 53-435 Akoni Pule Highway in Hawi. For more information, visit or call 889-0739.

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