Retta S. Worcester

Library of Hawaii

One of the most important showcases of Island art is the Library of Hawaii art circuit. Work is submitted twice a year to juries drawn from prominent art organizations (these, also, change every six months). Artists chosen get a three-week one-man exhibition at the Central Library; the showing then circulates to Oahu branch libraries for the next seven months.

Unfortunately many of Hawaii’s top artists have ignored this important means of display. Many mediocre painters have been selected for want of better work from which to choose. Mrs. Worcester, currently showing “wet-wash” watercolors, is one of these.

The “wet-wash” technique, characterized by soaking the paper first and then applying water color pigment for a blurry effect, has been popularized here by another Island artist, Hon-Chew Hee. A superficially “Oriental” look is sometimes achieved by the prominence given to line against a void-like background.

“Wet-wash” is basically an interesting way to work, but it has been overdone in the Islands. At every public art showing here there are at least a dozen “wet-wash” watercolors, all looking exactly the same.

Mrs. Worcester has fallen heir to the difficulties of giving this technique an individual look. This she accomplishes in only one landscape, Fingers in the Bay, in which her talent for organizing many elements into a cohesive whole is apparent. The latter is the best work in the show and pictures the organic heaving of land mounds and fury of sky elements.

In others, however, the colors become blurry and her values are often too darkly uniform.

––Joanna Shaw Eagle