Days of Grace: California Artist Grace Hudson in Hawaii

Karen Holmes and Sherrie Smith-Ferri
Ukiah, CA

This comprehensive and visually-stunning catalog accompanied an exhibit of the same name on display at the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, California, in the fall of 2014. The Museum, dedicated to the life works of artist Grace Hudson (1865-1937) and her ethnologist husband, Dr. John Hudson (1857-1936), is noted for Grace’s paintings of Northern California’s Pomo Indian peoples and John’s collection of Pomo basketry and ethnographic artifacts. The exhibition catalog (and the exhibit), however, concentrated on Grace’s one-year sojourn to the Hawaiian Islands in 1901.

The publication documents an unexamined period in Grace’s life, a period of major significance to her both personally and professionally. The authors developed Grace’s Hawaiian story based on rigorous original research using primary sources wherever possible, both within the Museum’s collections and in those of other institutions. Interviews with Hawaiian art collectors and descendants of the first owners of Hudson’s Hawaiian paintings, as well as searches of online digitized materials, resulted in finding and showcasing many previously unknown Hudson works.

Holmes and Smith-Ferri have put together a beautiful and highly readable combination of scholarly narrative, documentary materials, and artwork. The inclusion of personal correspondence and Grace’s painting diary truly bring the artist to life as a chronicler of Native American and Hawaiian life and a woman ahead of her time.

The goals of the project was to gain a greater understanding of a “missing” year in Grace Hudson’s life; to learn more about the Museum’s collections, particularly its Native Hawaiian artifacts; to discover the whereabouts of as many of Hudson’s Hawaiian paintings as possible; and to establish connections with Hawaiian art collectors and institutions to introduce Grace Hudson to a wider audience. All of these objectives were met in the process of producing the catalog (which included research in Hawaii), and developing its companion exhibit. One final objective, to have the exhibit displayed in Hawaii, was also met: Days of Grace opened at the Honolulu Museum of Art in November 2015.