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Erica Karawina (Hsiao)



"Karawina's work can be seen in dozens of places in Hawai'i, from the front of The Honolulu Advertiser's News Building, to the massive ceiling skylight in Ka'ahumanu Hale (First Circuit Court), to the four large stained-glass mosaic murals around the crown of the State Office Building, Kalanimoku Hale. Manoa Valley Church, Lili'uokalani Protestant Church and Church of the Epiphany in Kaimuki are just a few of the houses of worship that have windows made by the artist.


"The daylight in Hawai'i is superb for this," the artist said in 1977.


Karawina was born Jan. 25, 1904, in Germany and moved to the United States in 1923. she studied with sculptor Frederick W. Allen, head of the Boston Museum School, and with Charles J. Connick, who created the stained-glass windows in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and Chicago's First Presbyterian Church.


Karawina likened her art education to that of a medieval apprentice who learned the craft through careful observation and practice.


"An artist has to be humble in this medium and subservient to the material," Karawina told The Advertiser in 1961. "It is from the black that stained glass derives it strength. Just as when one looks at a tree silhouetted against bright sunlight and the sun seems to dissolve the tree, so the brilliance and reflected light in colored glass dissolves, yet depends on, the black web of lead." 


Karawina also did wood cuts and lithographs in the 1930s that were frequently displayed in galleries including the Library of Congress and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.


She met her husband, Sidney C. Hsiao, while he was studying at Harvard University, and they were married in 1938. In 1941, the couple were in China when World War II broke out and forced to stay there for the duration. Hsiao taught in a school near the Tibet border, and Karawina focused on painting, learning to incorporate Asian influences into her art.

After the war, they moved to New England and then to Honolulu in 1949, where Hsiao became chairman of the University of Hawai'i's zoology department.


Working from her Manoa home, Karawina created dozens of stained-glass murals and developed what she called a "faceted glass works" using rough-hewn glass resulting from hammering and chiseling pieces that were then placed in a frame and embedded in epoxy."

By James Gonser, Honolullu Advertiser Staff Writer, April 25, 2003

Erica Karawin's beautiful book, "Painting With Light", is available for purchase from our church office. 

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