Interview and Photos by Dixie Rose
In her studio flooded with natural night and filled with a variety of hearty foliage and cacti, painter Hadley Nunes’ artwork nods to paintings of the past, incorporates flowers through still life and offers exquisite color palettes that invite a slow reading of her unique imagery. We know her from a recent visit to her studio at Lana Lane Studios and as the Floral Director at Paiko where she makes the weekly flower arrangement for Arvo and assists in all things flowers at Paiko. We had the chance to connect with her about art, morning rituals, and afew other topics we’ve been thinking about as of late.
Can you share a little about yourself, your upbringing and background?
I was born just outside Washington, D.C. in Arlington Virginia. My dad was a journalist for the Washington Post and my mom was a stay at home mom when I was very young and then later went back to school to study western philosophy and eventually got her masters degree in social work. She was and still is a voracious reader. We move many times while I was growing up, so by the time we landed in Hawaii, when I was seventeen, I had attended eight different schools. Moving around taught me so much about people; what makes them similar or what makes them different and how to connect. I also discovered that I have many different sides to my personal identity—some shaped by the many environments I’ve experienced and others which are innate. Living in New York City for a decade was the perfect place to explore all my sides. It is a city where you can reinvent yourself without limit. My mom has a keen eye for detail and beauty as does my dad, I think their appreciation of art and language had a huge impact on what I ended up valuing in my adult life. They were adventurers. Before I was born they bought a VW camper van, took a year off from work and brought my brother and sister on a trip to South America. This was in the seventies. I’ve always loved how much my parents enjoy venturing into the unknown, that trait definitely passed down to me and is something I find very useful in my art practice. It pushes me to discover something new every time I’m working.
The word “Creative” seems to be tossed around a bit these days. What does it mean to you?
I think this term is one that started being used as our generation has taken shape professionally alongside a culture heavily influenced by the visual content that the internet and social media provide. It reflects the adaptable nature of professionals who apply a various number of talents towards their work. It’s useful, but sometimes these catch-all terms can hold us back from learning more about what’s actually happening. I say seize any opportunity you have to tell the complicated version of what makes your path unique as a professional.
What is your favorite city?
New York City will forever be my favorite city from afar, but my heart belongs to Honolulu. It’s home and I love my community. I want to give this city the best I have to offer, heart and soul.
What is your morning ritual? coffee of tea?
The first thing I do in the morning is meditate for twenty minutes. I find taking this intentional quiet time recharges me at my core. Even if my mind is busy and my thoughts are jumping from one to the next, this time is precious and nurturing. Usually my cat Johnny Cash will jump into my lap and mediate with me. Afterwards, I put the kettle on for tea. I love my tea pot! It has a whistle. When I water boils and I hear it, it feels like the bells of a new day are ringing and the day is filled with possibility. When my schedule is really full, as it’s been lately, sometime coffee is needed. I love walking down the block to Arvo from my place to pick up a latte from the to go window. When I’m working at Paiko I can just stroll on over to the counter. Seeing all the friendly faces and knowing I’ll get the perfect latte every time, it’s such a treat.
What does being a modern woman mean to you? And how do you do your part?
A modern woman is hard to define because I think the idea should surpass trend. I want it to be an inclusive term because I think women everywhere are connected. When we have compassion for each other we can find connections even with women who come from completely different world views. I have a very deep respect for all women. Regardless of background, I think a modern woman is a fighter and searching for her path towards growth. She sees her place within the bigger context of her community and she contemplates her deeper purpose when time allows. The women in my life have always helped me grow, from my own mother to women I work with at Paiko, Lana Lane Studios, Arvo, and Milo. Human, real and resilient; these women inspire me to take my next step and embrace the challenges. As much as possible I want to givesomething good to the world, so I try everyday, in all ways, to do my very best.
We love your studio visits, drinking tea and arranging flowers with you...Can you explain the emotions that go behind this process?
I am an artist whose work is very much about the body and the senses. Perception is key. I view the act of perceiving as a physical action because you’re getting out of the thinking mind and in touch with what you’re seeing and experiencing. With paint I am communicating my emotions through color and instinct along with histories of art which I will forever be reflecting on within my creative process. I think depth of feeling has many forms, some go beyond emotion. My desire to create and to share nuance and the experience of the moment through art comes from a layer of my being that is focused and receptive, and emotion is a part of that, but only as one ingredient among others. Going beyond emotion is quite empowering and healing.
What are some items you can not live without?
Paint, flowers, plants, my surfboard. Objects and books that remind me of my family. Garden sheers and black tea.