Dinner at Mark’s

Text by Nicole Furtado || Images by Jonas Maon

The clinking of cocktail glasses. The aromas of your favorite foods wafting through the air. The murmur of conversation and laughter from family and friends. Such scenes around the dining table were interpreted whimsically and personally by the 10 artists who participated in Dinner Party, an exhibition at The Arts at Marks Garage in September 2016. Just as dinner parties, and food, present opportunities to get to know those you are eating with through bonding over the meal or engaging in conversation, this exhibit allowed artists from around O‘ahu to get to know one another and forge friendships. Below, the artists discuss their inspirations and the stories behind their Dinner Party creations.

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Allyn Goo

“Dinner for 2?”



“The artwork is inspired by ‘dinner plate lunch,’ or something that you’d find here in Hawai‘i. It is more about our food culture and the diversity of food we have here, which can be seen just by the utensils we are given to eat, usually a fork and a chopstick. It’s our local culture utensils. To emphasize this, I used actual Styrofoam items, put them into a plaster mold, then fired it. The original items then disintegrated at 1,110 degrees, and molten bronze is poured into the space left behind. The patina then determines the color. I left it grey to reference the original Styrofoam. The title of the artwork comes from the fact that one plate is already eaten, while the other is untouched. The person is possibly waiting for someone else to come along and eat with them, I guess. Maybe the message is to always leave space for someone else to eat with … kind of like life in general.”

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Ashley Huang

“Uninhibited Frenzy”

Soda-fired stoneware


“The idea of a dinner party is so formal, so I wanted to get rid of that and ‘destroy’ the dinner table. The broken plates were from my grandparents who owned a restaurant called Four Star Chop Suey in Kailua. It was one of the only places open in Kailua during the holidays. Originally, I looked for plates from Goodwill, but then I found these plates and incorporated them into my artwork. I hadn’t seen them since childhood.”

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Lisa Shiroma

“Dreams Come True”

Found objects, mixed media


“I was a lover of cats ever since I was little. I also have friends who love cats and wine. My piece is a dinner party for the cats, about a crazy cat lady enjoying an evening with her bottle of wine and being satiated from the company of her cats. The middle of the piece is the crazy cat lady’s brain, and the cats are jumping out of her mind. This is a dream come true for her, to have all these soft cats purring and cuddling. I want people to have a positive reaction to the art and make them laugh. Humor is important in art.”

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Daven Hee

“Daven’s Dinner Party 2016”

Wheel-thrown stoneware, high-fired glass


“When I was growing up, no matter how our day went, we sat down and ate dinner together as a family and talked about our day. No TV, just talking. It’s about family values. I wanted to create ordinary pieces, and by its synergy, make it a cohesive thought, much like how we brought 10 different artists together. By pulling them all together, we can make an outstanding show. The result is greater than what can be done by oneself.”

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Jon Vongvichai

“A Black and White Dinner Doesn’t Have to be Bougie”

Wheel-thrown porcelain


“Things have been difficult for my family with the sudden passing of my grandma. My family was always getting together after. Once someone passes, you see things that you’ve always been putting off. I was also trying to reconcile with my dad. Sometimes relationships are strained. Food is about family. It’s one of the only times we can get together. The circles are a metaphor for family. The name is a play on the idea that black and white events are exclusive and formal, but a dinner party doesn’t need to be overly ornate. It’s about food, something that binds us all together.”

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Mariko Merritt

“Dinner Party Animals”



“I like to eat with people and have conversations. I wanted to make something that people will talk about at the dinner table and converse about. This installation took about two months to make. My inspiration came from Japanese food preparation and presentation, where there are like 10 little dishes and one main entrée. These Japanese food dishes are all served with purpose.”

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Ryan Schulz

“Dredging Leviathan”

Porcelain and underglaze


“The first thing that popped into my mind was a scene of that classic nuclear family where everyone is sharing the same meal but nobody is in the same place mentally. It may be a pretty cartoonish depiction of how we share food, but I find eating is as much emotional as it is physical. Your state of mind can transform the same meal into a multitude of different experiences depending on where you are when you eat it. Are you at a wedding? Are you mad at whomever you’re eating with? Did you just sit down after a bike ride, sweaty and thirsty? All of these happenings shape our perception of subtle nuances, such as flavor, appetite, and satisfaction.”

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Maggie McCain

“If Only I Could Talk to You”



“A dinner party means getting together with friends. I’m the only artist in the show that’s from the mainland, and sometimes I’ll get homesick, but I can’t always talk to my family because it’s too late at night or I can’t talk to friends because some have passed. Sometimes it can feel like your lines of communication are outdated, or there can be issues with time. The spaceman in the piece is from a really far away planet. The old telephone signifies the now-outdated technologies for talking. The spaceman and space travel are like new innovations. A lot of the inspiration for this piece comes from a woman I knew at Pilchuck Glass School named Susan Bane Holland Reed, who passed away this year. She was an important artist to me and reminded me that even though glass can seem like a male-dominated medium, to always have fun with it.”

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Russ Katto

“Germinating Stemware”

Lampworked borosilicate glass


“I didn’t want to make functional ware or a vessel. Honestly, this art show came at an odd time in my life. It is a group of objects that could represent people that are either friends or family. I wanted to make something that represented a different person coming to the table, yet eating in a group. The individuality of the person is represented through each piece itself. I imagined who would be at the dinner table. Some people are closer than others, that’s why some glasses are more similar to others. By having the cups a little different from each other, it shows the different relationships to each other. The seeds in the middle of the glasses represent new relationships or discussions happening at the table. I don’t want the pieces to be sold separately, it should all be together. But in the end, dinner parties aren’t meant to last.”

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Calvin Lac

“Just a Taste,” “Hunger in the Night,” “Fish in Pan with Spatula”

Mahogany, silicone, brass, copper, aluminum, Argentium silver


“I like eating food, but not preparing it. I wanted to make a kinetic art piece more about people and the act of eating than the food itself. The work of art is supposed to signify eating fish. It was inspired by that feeling you get when you are a kid and eating the last bit of your favorite food. You’d want to savor it. It’s the same type of feeling when your parents make cake batter and the joy you get from licking the spoon.”