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Melding Legal Theory and Artistic Practice: Mari J. Matsuda Receives Liu Shiming Scholarship

The Liu Shiming Art Foundation and University of Hawaii Manoa(UHM) are proud to announce Mari J. Matsuda as the first recipient of the Liu Shiming Scholarship at UHM.


Mari J. Matsuda


Mari J. Matsuda is a law professor and was the first tenured female Asian American law professor in the U.S. Matsuda is currently pursuing an MFA from the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where she previously obtained a BFA degree in 2020.



Mari J. Matsuda's sculptures, Photography by AJ Feducia and Reese Kato


After a 40-year break from art, Matsuda Matsuda once again became fully aware of the power of art to convey important messages that can bypass language barriers. Matsuda believes that supporting art and artists is crucial for democracy, especially when it is under threat. She admires Liu Shiming's representation of ordinary people and sees his work as conveying a political message of valuing each person on the planet. Matsuda feels validated in her own focus on the human figure through learning about Liu Shiming’s art and believes that it is a powerful direction for art.


Matsuda believes that supporting and validating the work of artists is essential for democracy. Liu Shiming Art Foundation's support can help artists overcome barriers, such as inflation in art supplies and entry fees to showcase their work. Thus, artists can let their voices be heard.


Mari J. Matsuda's sculptures, Photography by AJ Feducia and Reese Kato


Dr. Peter Arnade, Dean of the College of Arts, Language & Letters at the University of Hawaii, spoke about Matsuda, an outstanding legal scholar who has decided to pursue an MFA at the university. Matsuda is a perfect example of a person who combines a commitment to legal social justice and artistic practice to promote democracy. Dr. Arnade believes that Matsuda is a deserving awardee of the inaugural Liu Shiming Scholarship.



Mari J. Matsuda's sculptures, Photography by AJ Feducia and Reese Kato


Maika Pollack, the Director and Chief Curator of the John Young Museum of Art and University Galleries, as well as Assistant Professor of Curatorial Studies and Art History, provides insight into Matsuda's art practices. Matsuda uses salvaged wooden shipping pallets to carve portraits of Hawaiian resistance figures, mostly women, from the 1920s to the 1950s. She pulls prints from the pallets to create woodblock prints. Her use of salvaged materials reflects the history of commerce and labor in Hawaii, particularly in Honolulu, a port city. Matsuda also practices social engagement by organizing community events during her exhibitions, creating opportunities for poets or radical organizers to gather in her exhibition space. Her work aligns with the foundation's focus on globalism and multiculturalism by representing ordinary people and working-class people who come from Hawaii and telling their stories when their stories might otherwise be forgotten.




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