Few Hawaii artists are of greater renown than Abe Satoru, whose work has been shown extensively in Hawaii, nationally and internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum.

"Satoru is one of, if not the most important living artist in Hawaii today," said David de la Torre, director of the Art in Public Places Program and the Hawaii State Art Museum, which houses many of the artist's works, as the showcase for works collected over 30 years by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. "His artistic contributions to the state and its cultural life should not be underestimated. He deserves our deepest respect and admiration for his ongoing dedication and commitment to enriching our lives with his work."

Abe's struggle these days is to return to the state of innocence with which he set out to become an artist.

"I knew very little about it. All I wanted to do was paint like Rembrandt. You have to be young, naive, innocent to pursue art. Now, I have too much junk in my head. I've seen too many art, analyzed too many art.

FREEDOM was in the air in Hawaii, 1950. After graduating from McKinley High School in 1945, Abe took a series of painting classes at the YMCA with Hon Chew Hee in 1947 and a year later decided to become an artist, not knowing what that entailed but certain that this would cause many women to fall in love with him.

He moved to New York to study painting at the Art Students League, and spent much time at the museums studying paintings. He laughs when he recalls saying of Vincent Van Gogh, "He's no painter."
In New York he met textile designer and fellow art student Ruth Tanji, a Wahiawa girl with "the face of an angel." The two married after a six-month courtship and returned to Hawaii in 1950.
The circumstances of the 1950s were so unique that Abe feels his achievements would not have been possible in any other time or place.

"Art today is kind of professionalism. If I were starting today, I wouldn't pursue it. If I had some urge to create, I might go into some kind of creative career, but I wouldn't want to have been born in this era.

One of his recent prizes was one of his own mid-1950s post-Japan "white" or "romantic" paintings, named for his use of a modulated white ground that isolated male and female figures at the center.
He bought the painting for $3,000 after contacting the person selling it through a classified ad, but he doesn't intend to keep it. "I bought it for the kids. That's my legacy."

Standing in front of the painting and analyzing it 50 years after its creation, he's critical of the work but says, "I don't have too much ego already. I don't need possessions. If you can eliminate all that, life is easy."