Surfacing on Kaua‘i

Bruna Stude, Galerie 103

Galerie 103 owner Bruna Stude, with her gallery “assistant” Brolie. Photo by Liz Belfor.

Raised in the Croatian port town of Split on the Dalmatian Coast in the 1960s, Bruna Stude’s earliest memories are of the Adriatic Sea. Her first ambitions, Stude recalls, involved water.

“My goal, when I was little, was to dive underwater from one end of the harbor to the other. I never got to the other end, but I never stopped trying. I sometimes feel I’m still doing it.”

As a child Stude was taught to appreciate all art forms. “My grandfather was an artist, my sister’s a classical ballerina and a lot of my family is in music.” When she was 10 Stude got her first camera and began photographing her dog, her family and anything else that caught her eye. In her late 20s, Stude left Split and became a crewmember on boats that took her around the world several times over.

Exploring the world’s seas, Stude began taking underwater pictures, a subject that has become her hallmark. For Stude, living afloat for the better part of 17 years, mostly in pursuit of “someplace warm,” allowed her to photograph marine life in the Galapagos, Micronesia, the Caribbean and the Red Sea, to name a few.

When Stude and her partner Carter Corey sailed to O‘ahu in 2000, she realized she’d found the islands she’d been dreaming of since her childhood — a place with endless summer. “I always wanted to live somewhere you could swim year-round.”

In 2002 Stude dropped her proverbial anchor on Kaua‘i where she began exhibiting her photography in a Hanapēpē gallery, but when it closed, she and fellow artists found themselves without a venue. Fortuitously, a new retail space called Kukui‘ula Village was recruiting new tenants. For Stude, this was her chance to open her own gallery — Galerie 103.

Amongst Kaua‘i’s small, but vibrant art community, Stude saw the potential to showcase accomplished artists from Hawai‘i and elsewhere. Works by William T. Wiley and H. C. Westermann were suddenly available to a growing body of collectors and viewers on Kaua‘i who valued a class of art beyond stock “island art” found in souvenir galleries.

Since July 2009, Stude has been owner, curator and director for the 2,400 square foot space, which looks and feels more like a gallery one finds in Los Angeles or New York City than in a neighbor island resort retail complex.

Galerie 103 is divided into two spaces – the main gallery where large works are exhibited and an adjacent smaller annex Stude calls Galerie+ which features smaller format works and sculptures, objects and art books representing the artists Galerie 103 has shown.

Before opening the gallery Stude already knew most of the artists who have exhibited at Galerie 103 save for one — Tom Lieber, a north shore-based abstract painter whose paintings are found in collections on both coasts and in Europe, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim in New York City, The Tate Gallery in London and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. When Stude finally met Lieber, she says he taught her many of the ins and outs of the business of running a gallery.

For Lieber’s part, he praises what he calls Stude’s “keen sense of finding the best of anything and everything, from art to lighting to books” in order to create a “rewarding experience for discriminating viewers.”

Besides working with top Hawai‘i artists like Doug Britt, Christopher Reiner and others, Gallerie 103 is, for Stude, a vehicle for challenging misconceptions about art in the islands. Hawai‘i offers so much more than simply a beautiful setting for artists to depict. Hawai‘i has become, Stude says, “a center of conceptual awareness and critical debate, especially for environmental issues.”

One project in which Stude has combined her own talents as a photographer with a fellow Kaua‘i artist was in making the short film Love Sharks which captures the natural enthusiasm and affection children exhibit for the ocean’s most fearsome creature as inspired by Anahola artist Mac James’ “Ikaika” exhibition.

Through the artists exhibiting at Galerie 103 and her own photographic studies of the ocean, Stude fosters a love of the arts, teaches the importance of marine environments and, perhaps just figuratively, gets a little bit closer to the other end of the harbor.

Tom Lieber

Tom Lieber, “Sounding,” oil on canvas.

Mac James, “Baitball,” oil + graphite on canvas over veneer.

Bruna Stude, “Identity,” archival pigment print.


To view Love Sharks CLICK HERE.

Galerie 103

2829 Ala Kalaniakumaka

Kukui‘ula Village

Visit for more information.

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