Somewhere among the chaos that’s 800 blocks of timber, artist Nicole Naone sees the forest for the trees.

Words Matthew Dekneef / Images Mark Kushimi

Her latest sculpture, Being, is her most audacious to date—cutting, shaping, piecing together a complex vision of disparate shapes and sizes to create a whole and discernable form, as if carving through the confusion toward a more tangible clarity.

The result is a 10-foot tall piece, composed entirely of repurposed wood, ingrained with all the omnipresence a name like Being suggests. It’s massive, but quiet in its confidence. Sprawling at the edges, but confined to a strict and sensible structure at its core. Conspicuous in size, the figure is rife with enough detailing and craftsmanship that you could blink and still miss it.

Being and more of Naone’s sculptures will be showcased in the Waikiki Parc Hotel’s next solo exhibition this summer.

  What themes, new or revisited, did you want to push with this particular sculpture?  I noticed my woodwork always seemed really geometric, while any other medium I used was really organic. This piece was largely about finding a balance between the two. Secrets have always been a reoccurring theme for me. Finding ways to hide anything, from a silly inside joke to a traumatic childhood event, into one piece is always something I like to do with my work and this sculpture is full of them. Being more than one thing at the same time is also a theme I care about. In the same way that my mural for Nextdoor had multiple images at the same time depending on where you viewed it from, this sculpture changes drastically based on your vantage point.

What themes, new or revisited, did you want to push with this particular sculpture?
I noticed my woodwork always seemed really geometric, while any other medium I used was really organic. This piece was largely about finding a balance between the two. Secrets have always been a reoccurring theme for me. Finding ways to hide anything, from a silly inside joke to a traumatic childhood event, into one piece is always something I like to do with my work and this sculpture is full of them. Being more than one thing at the same time is also a theme I care about. In the same way that my mural for Nextdoor had multiple images at the same time depending on where you viewed it from, this sculpture changes drastically based on your vantage point.

  Did you begin this sculpture with the end in mind, or does the material speak to you as you work with it, to where the final shape is a surprise even to you?  With any piece I make it's usually a bit of both. Certain things have to be very specifically planned for structural integrity. I like to have a really solid foundation both conceptually and physically, so that the piece itself can endure whatever decisions I make whether planned or not. A strong foundation also makes it so that the material has some room to say what it wants without overtaking the piece

Did you begin this sculpture with the end in mind, or does the material speak to you as you work with it, to where the final shape is a surprise even to you?
With any piece I make it's usually a bit of both. Certain things have to be very specifically planned for structural integrity. I like to have a really solid foundation both conceptually and physically, so that the piece itself can endure whatever decisions I make whether planned or not. A strong foundation also makes it so that the material has some room to say what it wants without overtaking the piece

  Describe your day-to-day process. It doesn't look like you have much room for trial and error.  The planning was pretty intense. It had to be. I spent about a month just drawing, researching, talking to a lot of different people, until I finally decided on a design I thought I could handle in the time frame and at my skill level. Once the planning was complete, the actual construction was quite disciplined and regimented. There definitely wasn't room for trial and error. I usually like to work that way. There’s a time for experimenting and a time for working. This was work time.

Describe your day-to-day process. It doesn't look like you have much room for trial and error.
The planning was pretty intense. It had to be. I spent about a month just drawing, researching, talking to a lot of different people, until I finally decided on a design I thought I could handle in the time frame and at my skill level. Once the planning was complete, the actual construction was quite disciplined and regimented. There definitely wasn't room for trial and error. I usually like to work that way. There’s a time for experimenting and a time for working. This was work time.

  Did Being confront you with any unique challenges?  From what I hear, the way I work is a little intense. Obsessive. Unhealthy? [Laughs] Someone curious and interested in learning amid that horrible environment was Sarah Sollner. While I was still in the planning stages she asked if she could assist me once a week to learn the way I make things. That was a unique challenge for me. Trusting someone enough to allow them to see exactly how I do things. Also, being patient and teaching were definitely new to me, but necessary when having an assistant. Sarah turned out to be the greatest assistant ever! She was already a very talented artist, and I hope the things she learned from me will help her in her future endeavors.

Did Being confront you with any unique challenges?
From what I hear, the way I work is a little intense. Obsessive. Unhealthy? [Laughs] Someone curious and interested in learning amid that horrible environment was Sarah Sollner. While I was still in the planning stages she asked if she could assist me once a week to learn the way I make things. That was a unique challenge for me. Trusting someone enough to allow them to see exactly how I do things. Also, being patient and teaching were definitely new to me, but necessary when having an assistant. Sarah turned out to be the greatest assistant ever! She was already a very talented artist, and I hope the things she learned from me will help her in her future endeavors.

  You work in various media, but have been pursuing sculpture more and more over the years. What attracts you to it as a practice?  I don't have depth perception, so when I look at things I don't automatically read them as three-dimensional. A lot of the time it takes an actual conscious effort for me to understand a form. When I started experimenting with sculpture it felt so comfortable because I had been making sense of forms rather than assuming them my whole life. I also am very attracted to the idea of an object—tangible, taking up space, existing. I realize that two-dimensional work does this as well, but I don't know, it's just different with sculpture.   Every time I visit you in the studio you always keep the best music as company. What was your soundtrack while sculpting these past few months?  Honestly, I was pretty boring music-wise for this piece. A lot of Erik Satie, Chopin, Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Philip Glass, different John Williams film scores. I really couldn't handle any words. But during set up and clean up there was a lot of Disney Princess songs. There was also this one weird day where I listened to “Our House” by Crosby, Stills and Nash on repeat literally for my entire 12 hour work day. I don’t know what that was about, but it happened.

You work in various media, but have been pursuing sculpture more and more over the years. What attracts you to it as a practice?
I don't have depth perception, so when I look at things I don't automatically read them as three-dimensional. A lot of the time it takes an actual conscious effort for me to understand a form. When I started experimenting with sculpture it felt so comfortable because I had been making sense of forms rather than assuming them my whole life. I also am very attracted to the idea of an object—tangible, taking up space, existing. I realize that two-dimensional work does this as well, but I don't know, it's just different with sculpture.

Every time I visit you in the studio you always keep the best music as company. What was your soundtrack while sculpting these past few months?
Honestly, I was pretty boring music-wise for this piece. A lot of Erik Satie, Chopin, Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Philip Glass, different John Williams film scores. I really couldn't handle any words. But during set up and clean up there was a lot of Disney Princess songs. There was also this one weird day where I listened to “Our House” by Crosby, Stills and Nash on repeat literally for my entire 12 hour work day. I don’t know what that was about, but it happened.


 

 

 

 

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