An Ever-Evolving Presence

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Artist Hadley Nunes enlivens Our Kaka‘ako with the upcoming Present Project.

Text by Kelli Gratz | Images by Jonas Maon

It took more than two years for Hawai‘i-based visual artist and curator Hadley Nunes to conceive of and put in motion Present, which she describes as “a space of sharing, inclusivity, education, and for adults and children to interact.” Though she holds a master’s of fine arts degree from the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, the director and curator of Present doesn’t call herself an artist or illustrator but “an observer and arranger in a process that continues to take shape.”

Hadley, who is from Arlington, Virginia, never imagined she would be involved in anything other than art. “I remember when I fell in love with Willem de Kooning looking at his massive female figures in the National Gallery,” she says. “I just stood there and thought, I want to do that. It felt completely natural to express within a world of so much creative possibility.”

After completing residencies in Paris, Vermont, Virginia, and Japan, Hadley sought to understand how she could be of better service to the world. She relocated to Hawai‘i in 2012 and began working out of Lana Lane Studios, a chamber the size of a barn brimming with the typical privileges of a place stocked with creative minds. It was here while working in the cauldron of shared artist studios alongside Pow Wow Hawai‘i founder Jasper Wong that the idea for Present emerged. “Initially, it was meant to be a collaborative group show of artists working in the neighborhood,” says Hadley, who later began hashing out ideas with fellow creative, DJ and producer Anton Glamb. “Anton came up with the name and it made perfect sense of the vision—to be in attendance of the moment is a gift collectively. To present this to the world is our gift.”

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Nunes’ artwork is subtle but arrestingly beautiful. She typically works in multiple layers, utilizing oil, acrylic, and graphite, with the rawness of nature feeding into her work. Sketches of smoke from volcanic craters seem to change as they billow toward the clouds. “The idea that nature changes us always comes back to me,” says the artist, who often finds herself working outdoors, where the elements of nature can just as easily influence the end product as her ideas themselves.

“We’re all coming together at this space, and part of the collaboration is figuring it out together,” she continues. “But from the start, this whole process has been very organic. I’m learning from everybody, every day.”

For more information on Hadley, visit hadleynunes.com. For the full schedule of events for Present Project, click here.