An Inside Look at Christina Skaggs's Home And Career Journey

Margaret Kearns | September 18, 2019 | People

Skaggs in her home studio in Hilo

Artist Christina Skaggs has always been propelled by an instinctive creative purpose.

Christina Skaggs found exactly the artwork she was looking for when she picked up a paintbrush nearly 30 years ago and embarked on yet another creative journey. Today, her large-scale jewel-like textured paintings are in high demand from collectors world-wide, including five-diamond luxury resorts and high-end residential homeowners.

A highly imaginative creative and an empath at heart, Skaggs started her career in her New York home, dyeing luxury fabrics using an ancient process. Her career path later wound its way to Hollywood, where she was an Emmy-nominated camera operator and window designer on Rodeo Drive. Finally, in 1990, she settled in the platitude of Hawai‘i Island’s East Side.

An airy kitchen design brings the outside in; with minimalist touches

It was here that Skaggs says she began “stripping away the inessential to discover the style of painting that, until then, I had only encountered in my own mind.” During this transitional time, she says she also devoted herself to “building compassion for those who cannot speak for themselves” by serving as president of the Hawai‘i Island Humane Society. “After 10 years, I had to let it go and focus entirely on my art,” she adds.

What eventually emerged in her tranquil upland- Hilo studio was a signature style: somewhat complex and reflecting iconic ancient imagery—images she has carried in her mind since childhood.

“Ancient carvings, weavings, cave drawings, petroglyphs, hieroglyphs, scrolls, arabesques and calligraphy are a few of my many sources of inspiration. Often it’s as simple as a pattern in a city sidewalk or in the sand on a beach,” she says.

“I love primitive and ultramodern shapes, not so much anything in between. Structure, balance and absolute symmetry form the foundation of my work,” she adds. To achieve her desired effect—including highly textured, braille-like surfaces, often with a shimmering metallic appearance—the artist spent thousands of hours developing a top secret process for building up a surface with innumerable layers of glazes she mixes herself.

Skaggs’ studio is both warm and design-forward.

Her first collection was exhibited in 2007 at a small island restaurant, where the sold-out show was lauded as “the rarest of events; a unique experience” by a local newspaper. Since then, Skaggs’ work has been presented at the International Exhibition of Contemporary Islamic Art in Dallas; chosen in 2016 by the curator of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in 2017 by the curator of Islamic Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and, in March 2018, was displayed in New York at Architectural Digest Design Show. Locally, the Curator of Contemporary Art at the Honolulu Museum of Art selected her work for the Hawai’i National Parks 2016 Centennial Juried Exhibition at Schaefer International Gallery on Maui, and locals can also find commissioned pieces in the entryway of the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea’s Presidential Suite.

Skaggs considers the late Gilbert Batty, a third-generation master British painter whom she trained under while in Southern California, her mentor and source of major inspiration.

The tranquil master bedroom

Skaggs strongly believes the ancient symbols found in her paintings are embedded in our DNA, evoking beauty and distant memories. And beyond that, she believes her work is “infused by metaphysical forces and an interaction with spirits and ghosts from ancient global civilizations.” She adds joking: “They make my job easy—except that they often drop in at the most inconvenient times.”

“These images have become my silent prayer to the interconnectedness of all living things,” she says. “My work portrays that we are all one. I truly feel the universe appreciates my intentions and is conspiring in my favor—creating these paintings is the closest I’ve come to doing what I’m meant to do.”

A collection of Buddhist art

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Photography by: Olivier Koning