It's a fever you can't resist

Thank you Lacy Matsumoto for the review! and

by Lacy Matsumoto, Advertiser Staff Writer

On Hotel Street in Chinatown on a hot, sticky day, the smell of fried noodles and char siu fills the air. Bins full of exotic fruits such as lychee and dragonfruit spill out of the vendors' shops, and shoppers pass quickly by to make their next purchase. Maneuvering between tiny old women holding their groceries, and tourists snapping pictures of the Hotel Street action, the walk to thirtyninehotel's multimedia gallery is full of sensation.

The small door between two bars, NextDoor and Bar 35, creaks as it opens onto the steep staircase. The walls of the stairs are littered on either side with photos and press clippings. With each step up the staircase, the installation comes alive; bright colors flash into your line of vision.

The tall walls are lined with vivid colors, detail and psychedelic images, contemporary and re-worked vintage imagery. Flowers, ranging from a few inches to 3 feet across, are arrayed across the walls, on the DJ booth and bar area. A 4-foot-tall, black-and-white portrait of a woman draws your focus. The entire room is like a vision out of "Alice in Wonderland."

The exhibit, "This Fever I Can't Resist," intends to ignite your mind with its intense visual art.

From a distance, Megan Wilson's paisley patterns and retro flowers, strewn across one wall look like a giant display of multicolored flowers. As you step closer, each detail can be noticed, from intricately placed loops creating petals to precisely cut prints in floral shapes.

Carolyn Castano's creation on the oppositewall radiates with neon green, yellow and orange stripes. The mirrors in the center of the neon flowers reflect the opposite wall's color, and creates an illusion of depth within the flat-surfaced wall. The black-and-white image of the woman is reminiscent of an '80s pop image, or a Warhol piece.

"I've been thinking a lot about the colors and patterns that I see in the city, the urban-scape. I take walks around my neighborhood in Los Angeles and am interested in the way people paint their houses and businesses. Fluorescent colors, neon, hand-painted signs," said artist Castano. "The portrait is inspired by wanting to do portraits of friends, like Andy Warhol, but also like the pop illustrator Patrick Nagel, who made paintings of those chiseled ladies," she explained.

Thirtyninehotel's curator Trisha Goldberg was familiar with the two women's work.

"Trisha used to be a curator here in SF, so I've known her for years," Castano said.

In an interview from her California home, Wilson said of Goldberg: "She's followed my work for a while now. She had asked me who I wanted to work with, and so of course Carolyn came to mind. This installation is the most direct collaboration we've done together," said Wilson.

"I've never been to Hawai'i before this; what I knew about Hawai'i came from watching 'Hawaii Five-0' in the '70s. So we really wanted to present something exotic and tropical," said Wilson. "We decided that we'd utilize the walls separately with a few spaces that would collide, and that we'd both use some of the same fluorescent colors to tie our work together."

Said Castano: "Megan and I have collaborated about five times on public wall installations and gallery exhibits. We kind of know our groove at this point — what the other person likes and where the boundaries are."

Creating these murals was not simple.

"I worked on the installation for one week, from morning until when thirtyninehotel opened or sometimes into the night, even, while events were taking place," said Castano.

Said Wilson: "We ordered the Nova Color paints and had them delivered to the gallery. The textiles I brought and are things I've been gathering over the years. I had to get all the paint for the stripes locally."

Wilson, a San Francisco-based artist in her mid-30s, has been creating art for as long as she can remember. She learned mural painting from her mother.

"My mom painted the first flower mural in my room when I was 3. I guess the fruit doesn't fall too far from the tree," Wilson said with a laugh.

In recent years, Wilson's full focus turned from making art to nonprofit work in the humanities, and she found a balance.

"I'm very detail oriented, and when I'm doing my artwork I get really consumed by it," she said. "I don't think I could do it nonstop. I feel like the work I do with social justice issues is just as important."

Sharing something in common, Wilson and Goldberg use their artistic and creative minds for social issues and concerns. Goldberg, who also works for the Hawai'i State Museum, is in support of building the local art scene and bringing awareness to social issues through her art medium.

Castano, also is in her mid-30s, is based in Los Angeles. She's preparing for a show with a group of artists from L.A. called the LA Art Girls. An artist since 1992, she studied art at UCLA.

"I'm making art, thinking about ideas, and living the dream of an art-filled life," Castano said. "I was 18 when I started, so it was kind of dreamy and not too realistic. Now, I see it as my life. At times it can be a hard path, but other times are very rewarding."

Stepping out onto the open patio of thirtyninehotel, and away from the installation, images of "This Fever I Can't Resist" still linger in the summer heat.