FRED H. ROS­TER

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - LOCAL -

Mas­ter sculp­tor and pro­fes­sor of art Fred H. Ros­ter, an in­flu­en­tial force that en­riched Hawaii’s art com­mu­nity, passed away peace­fully at home on De­cem­ber 19. He was 73.

Born in Palo Alto in June 27, 1944, Ros­ter was raised in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia and re­ceived an MA in ceram­ics from San Jose State Univer­sity in 1968. Ros­ter and his for­mer wife Laila hon­ey­mooned in Hawai‘i in 1969 and de­cided “Hawai‘i seemed like the future.” He was awarded an MFA in 1970 from the Univer­sity of Hawai‘i at Manoa and joined the fac­ulty the fol­low­ing year as a sculp­ture pro­fes­sor.

With a 45-plus year ca­reer, Ros­ter’s im­pact is far reach­ing through his ded­i­ca­tion to art-mak­ing and teach­ing. He was known for his mixed-me­dia nar­ra­tive sculp­tures that were of­ten med­i­ta­tive, in­tro­spec­tive and enig­matic; wry ob­ser­va­tions of the hu­man con­di­tion; while pos­sess­ing an el­e­gance of form and poignant pres­ence. In 1984, he cre­ated “A Let­ter to My­self,” sim­ple man­goes, stems and leaves trans­formed by his in­ven­tive lyri­cal con­fig­u­ra­tions—his per­sonal al­pha­bet.

A 2010 ca­reer ret­ro­spec­tive at the Honolulu Mu­seum of Art School demon­strated Ros­ter’s seam­less com­mand over all the for­ma­tive pro­cesses. His adroit jux­ta­po­si­tion of me­dia: stone, wood, clay, bronze, steel, fine me­tals, and found ob­jects like a nat­u­ral tree branch was his sig­na­ture. Al­though his works spoke of en­vi­ron­men­tal and global con­cerns, they were also deeply re­flec­tive of his per­sonal life ex­pe­ri­ences. Ros­ter in­vited the viewer to in­ter­pret and in­ter­act with his evoca­tive sym­bols of wheels, ca­noes, fishes, hu­man fig­ures, mon­keys, his beloved dogs, and birds.

Vol­ley­ball in­tra­mu­rals, run­ning and cy­cling dis­played Ros­ter’s life-long ath­leti­cism and com­pet­i­tive­ness. In­tense bi­cy­cling train­ing along Kala­ni­anaole High­way, climb­ing Tan­talus and even rac­ing to Mount Haleakala sum­mit, he beat younger col­leagues Jon Ham­blin and Michael Harada. His love of cy­cling, boat­ing, and fish­ing in­flu­enced the use of large-scale wheels and ca­noes, metaphor­i­cal com­po­nents for the pas­sage of time and a car­rier of dreams as one jour­neys through life. The tac­tile marks of the maker’s hands were pur­posely recorded on rough-hewn wood carv­ings; ki­netic me­tal gears, wheels and cogs; and ges­tu­ral fig­ures and an­i­mals in clay and bronze—Ros­ter’s elo­quent gift.

His pro­found con­tri­bu­tion was men­tor­ing and in­spir­ing gen­er­a­tions of un­der­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ates, en­cour­ag­ing and chal­leng­ing them to em­brace their re­search and cre­ativ­ity to build their future ca­reers. Re­spected for his in­sight­ful guid­ance and feed­back, stu­dents were drawn to his dry wit and unas­sum­ing de­meanor. How­ever, stu­dents soon re­al­ized it was nec­es­sary to care­fully lis­ten to Ros­ter’s words to glean the true mes­sages, which fos­tered con­cep­tual and crit­i­cal think­ing.

Ros­ter lived what he taught, teach­ing ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties that in­volved cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for oth­ers helped to main­tain a vi­brant com­mu­nity. Sem­i­nars with in­no­va­tive as­sign­ments that reached a wider au­di­ence—the devel­op­ment and co­or­di­na­tion of pro­fes­sional ju­ried ex­hi­bi­tions, man­aged by his stu­dents, pro­vided in­valu­able ex­pe­ri­ences. Through Ros­ter’s teach­ing phi­los­o­phy “watch one, do one, teach one,” he re­in­forced the cy­cle of learn­ing, while build­ing skills and con­fi­dence and pass­ing the tra­di­tion to a new gen­er­a­tion. His legacy con­tin­ues through his stu­dents who he treated as re­spected col­leagues—pro­fes­sional artists, teach­ers, de­sign­ers, and mu­seum and gallery pro­fes­sion­als.

While Sculp­ture Pro­gram chair, Ros­ter ex­panded classes and fa­cil­i­ties and founded the an­nual BFA ex­hi­bi­tion. His classes ranged from me­tal fab­ri­ca­tion, large-scale cast­ing, carv­ing, small-scale jew­elry, mixed-me­dia, in­stal­la­tion, and per­for­mance. In 1982, Ros­ter co-founded the In­ter­na­tional Shoe­box Sculp­ture Ex­hi­bi­tion with col­league, emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor Mamoru Sato, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Univer­sity of Hawaii Art Gallery’s emer­i­tus Di­rec­tor Tom Klobe. Fea­tur­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally prom­i­nent artists as well as a sig­nif­i­cant con­tin­gent of lo­cal artists, it was a “flag­ship show for our whole state.” Over 27 years, the tri­en­nial ex­hi­bi­tion trav­eled to mu­se­ums and gal­leries in South Korea, Tai­wan, Guam, Ja­pan, Canada, Mex­ico, and through­out the United States.

Each sum­mer Ros­ter re­turned to An­gels Camp, to re­ju­ve­nate at the fam­ily’s prop­erty, the en­vi­ron­ment that fos­tered his life-long love of the cre­ative process and nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als. A cre­ative dwell time, he ex­plored the moun­tains and streams for stones and wood for future projects and carved what he found in the stu­dio barn us­ing tools from his child­hood. Fur­ther travel fu­eled his re­search, teach­ing ex­changes to Boul­der, Colorado in 1985 and Tas­ma­nia in 1996; sab­bat­i­cals to Tas­ma­nia in 1991, the most re­cent in France and Bel­gium in 2012 and va­ca­tions to Czech Repub­lic, Ger­many, Italy, Ja­pan, Tur­key, and Switzer­land.

The Hawai‘i State Foun­da­tion on Cul­ture and the Arts has sig­nif­i­cant hold­ings of Ros­ter’s works, in­clud­ing com­mis­sioned por­traits of Gov­er­nor John A. Burns, Queen Ka‘ahu­manu and Mataio Kekua­nao‘a and other large-scaled pub­lic works lo­cated at the Univer­sity of Hawaii at Manoa Ath­letic Com­plex and the Hawai‘i State Art Mu­seum. His works are also in the Honolulu Mu­seum of Art and many other pri­vate col­lec­tions.

Ros­ter was di­ag­nosed with a ma­lig­nant glioblas­toma af­ter suf­fer­ing a seizure March 2016 and re­tired that sum­mer to bat­tle the brain tu­mor with much grace, re­flec­tion and pre­fer­ring qual­ity of life. Ros­ter’s col­leagues, for­mer stu­dents and friends would of­ten visit him to rem­i­nisce, share grat­i­tude and sup­port. The Sis­ters of St. Fran­cis kindly loaned back a com­mis­sioned ¾-scale mon­key­pod carv­ing of St. Fran­cis of As­sisi, to com­fort its maker through his many months of can­cer treat­ments.

Ros­ter is sur­vived by his wife Lynette, her daugh­ter Rachel; his son Cade from his first mar­riage, daugh­ter-in-law Waileia and twin grand­sons Jax and Vaughn; older sis­ters Pat Dick­er­son and Joyce Helm­brecht and younger broth­ers Bill and Curt. Ser­vice will be pri­vate. Do­na­tions may be made to Hawai­ian Hu­mane So­ci­ety or Hawaii Crafts­men or Hawaii Bi­cy­cling League.

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