Esther Candari, a graduating senior fine arts major from Kaneohe, showcased contemporary realism in painting and sculpture with the theme “Greater than Rubies” in the lobby of the McKay Auditorium on May 13.
Candari explained the title of her show refers to Proverbs 31:10: “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” She said, “My art show is not like an in-your-face sort of beauty but more of a reserved beauty.
“My goal is to capture the beauty of women on multiple levels, both outward and inward. I focused on more than just a beautiful face.”
Through her show, Candari said she wanted “to capture women who really understand their worth. Women who are powerful in what they are doing and making a difference in the world, yet they still remain very graceful and dignified people.”
The art show was also a service project; there was a drawer with stationary in it that was used to write letters of encouragement to women in desperate times. There was also a donation box for items such as hygiene products, first-aid materials, stationary, diapers, and socks. Candari said the items would be taken to a women’s shelter, prison, and an addiction recovery program.
“One of the objectives of the service project is to reach out to women who are kind of forgotten, having hard times, and those who need words of encouragement and love,” she said.
Every art piece was inspired by an amazing woman in her life, said Candari, and the subjects of her artwork are women whom she looks up to. “I personally interact with Sister Hippolite Wright and Sister Tanner, and they give me guidance and counsel,” she said. “Also, some of my classmates are my subjects because they have done amazing things [despite] how young they are.”
Candari decided to do her art show as a counterpoint to modern media. She said she did not like how women are so objectified in advertisements and supermodels who are photoshopped and sexualized.
“It is misrepresenting what a real woman is,” she said. “Just like the women dressed up as vaginas who marched in Washington D.C., I feel like women were used in a wrong way. We can promote women’s rights without being so vulgar about it,” Candari said.
She explained how she wanted to find something that was a counterpoint to the objectification of women without being too “churchy” or “crazy conservative.” She said, “The paintings of the church are so reserved, meek, and mild. I wanted something that was strong and fierce but still dignified.
“I try to capture the range of personalities of people who don’t have an amazing resume but are sweet and kind. Also, those whom I see and interact with on a day-to-day basis.”
One of Candari’s favorite pieces is called “All I Ask,” a portrait of Lillian Bradley, human rights activist holding her hands in front of her longingly. The painting is being auctioned on behalf of Bradley’s foundation, Fahodie for Friends in Ghana.
About the painting, Candari said, “I feel like I was able to capture the spirit I wanted. It is a piece that draws people in and they understand what I want them to understand with it.”
Bradley, a BYUH alumni, said she met Candari in front of the McKay Center and was told about the project. Bradley gave a photo of herself to Candari without any real knowledge of the project. “When I first saw the output, I was really amazed. Esther’s work is phenomenal,” she said.
Bradley said there is so much passion in all the paintings, and it showcases Candari’s talent. “What I really love about all the paintings is the representation of women as strong and beautiful. I also love her willingness to share her gift with all of us, which is really inspiring.”
Bradley said her favorite piece from the show was “Albania.” She said, “It is very relaxed and relatable. The colors are beautiful and I love the dark background. I also love the look in her eyes and it seems like she is contemplating and wondering.”
“Albania” is painted on mahogany veneer using oil, according to the printed description. The subject of the painting is a woman wearing a dark green dress and a light green bandana. She is looking on her left side while her arms are folded and resting on her stomach.
“Esther is so talented, kind, and she has a special gift. I am not a creative person, but she inspires me,” Bradley continued. “She is very original and not scared to try things. She inspires me in my everyday life not be scared and to create what I feel is important.”
The art show took eight months of preparation, said Candari. She lamented how every day was a struggle while creating her pieces. “Things can go wrong with painting, like the ideas I can’t capture and finding the time to get it all done in less than eight months... I spent six to eight hours a day, sometimes even 12 hours working on a piece.”
She said art invites people into a physical and emotional space. “When people walk in the hallway, they see my artwork that comes from the space. As they look closely, I want them to experience an emotional space. For women, I want them to get a feeling of empowerment; for guys, gratitude if they are looking at it for women in their lives.”
Braylee Gabel, a junior from Washington majoring in applied mathematics, said, “[Esther] is able to capture and embody so many feelings in just one painting. Her artwork express more than words can.”
Gabel said one of Candari’s strengths is her originality. “She painted on a piece of wood, and I always thought that paintings were painted on canvas. She also ripped out pieces of books and painted it.
“She inspires me to do what I want. Anybody can do math, but not everyone can paint like Esther can. People can see her passion in all the details on her artwork, and she knows the right type,” Gabel added.
Audrey Hyde, a community member and aunty of Candari, said she knows and loves the subjects of the show. She said, “She put a lot of passion into strong, righteous women in her paintings, and it is beautiful to see how they came out.
“Esther is very directed and knows what she wants to do, and she goes for it. I like how she displays the scriptures in her artwork.”
NOTE: This story's online publishing was delayed because it was featured in the June 2017 print issue.