Image by Tahiti Huetter
Hawai‘i Island-based artists Keith Tallett and Sally Lundberg bring the outside in for Our Kaka‘ako’s artist residency, Present.
Text by Sonny Ganaden | Images courtesy by Les Filter Feeders
Sally Lundberg, Keith Tallett, and their 10-year-old daughter Kia‘i, otherwise known as Les Filter Feeders, are the first family of contemporary art in Hawai‘i. Their participation in the inaugural Our Kaka‘ako artist-in-residence program, Present, both validates the process and connects it to the experience of living in rural Hawai‘i.
“Keith and I come from DIY people,” says Sally. “My dad was a teacher and counselor before he moved us off the grid in the ’70s. We learned to live and create off the land, utilize solar panels, grow our own food—all of that. Keith comes from a grandma and dad that taught him how to make surfboards, quilts, buildings, everything.”
Though the two have primarily worked separately as individual artists, they are moving toward closer collaboration. Their pseudonym is meant to reflect filter feeders like sponges and sharks, “the way they feed in the same waters they swim in, clarifying as they go,” says Sally. “The end product is a support system. Keith is helping me with fabrication, I’m helping him with ideas. The important thing is that we do it as a family.” Even the “Les” has meaning: “We consider ourselves like Switzerland, an autonomous entity on the Big Island,” Sally explains. “We feel isolated when we come to the city. Plus it makes us sound fancy.”
Together, Les Filter Feeders have made magnificent works that explore the liminal spaces of lived Hawai‘i. Keith’s recent paintings have sent the inside out: images of tattoos and camouflage clothing disguised as native design, using the visual vernacular of rural Hawai‘i, free of irony, elevated with proper regard. Sally’s work has brought the outside in: cut logs with images of family members screened and glassed in place on exposed wood, using the rays of gallery lights and treated branches to mimic the dappled feel of the woods, evoking the transcendentalism possible in a gallery space, of entering the woods to find oneself, of being alone without being lonely.
Les Filter Feeders recent tarp installation at Honolulu Museum of Art School. Image courtesy of Les Filter Feeders.
For Les Filter Feeders’ recent installation at the Honolulu Museum of Art School, ubiquitous tarps were re-sewn and repurposed as structures weaving through the trees on the school’s lawn. The work had particular relevance in light of the houseless population and the protest group De-Occupy Honolulu, which used tarps for survival in Thomas Square park across the street from the installation. Sovereign, vulnerable spaces of art and protection, facing each other.
The family’s work at Present cannot be described, as it hasn’t yet been created. It will undoubtedly explore the thoughts of previous projects, speaking to an aspiration of mixing family and work lives. Despite creating together for years amidst their isolated property on Hawai‘i Island, the couple’s biggest collaboration thus far has been their daughter, Kia‘i. Days for Kia‘i include bombing the family hill on a big wheel, doing backflips into the pond, making flowcharts, cracking jokes, always talking—a guerilla girl in the making.
She’ll be making art at Present as well, her homeschooling allowing for the month-long move to O‘ahu. “Oh, she has big plans,” Sally says with a laugh. “She’s already asking for her own space, if she can sell things, if she can paint on leaves and install them. For us, we realize this program is how we already live, our daughter’s playing in the shadow of adults.”
Join Keith and Sally for a special artist talk on September 3, 6:30–7:30 p.m. at Kaka‘ako Agora, 441 Cooke St. For more information on Sally and Keith’s work, visit lesfilterfeeders.com. For the full schedule of events for Present Project, click here.