Enigma of the Mill

A Maui artist and filmmaker, Sewell’s decade-long fascination with Hawaii’s sugar mills has culminated in this massive multi-media installation project, complete with industrial video production, music accompaniment, and large sculptural elements. Projected images of gigantic sprockets, gears and vats of boiling sugar are synchronized with a polyphonic symphony of machinery to fill the gallery space for a truly unique exhibit. Giant blow-up photographs of machinery in detail draw the viewer into the discovery of color and texture, the beauty in the beast, as it were.

Memories of sugar mills restored

By Krista Walton


After a career in the sugar industry, Brian Ross says he will not see Maui’s mills in the same way since he observed and assisted Maui artist Tom Sewell in creating new images of the mill.

“A few years ago Tom showed me one of his videos, which he had done and put to music,” said Ross, the former manager at Paia Mill who first guided Sewell through the factory. “I’ve been in the mill industry for 40 years, and watching his video was like going to another planet – it was incredible. His work just throws a completely different outlook on what we know as a sugar factory.”

Tom Sewell unravels mystery of sugar mill

By Paul Janes-Brown

Tom Sewell, one of Maui’s most inventive, original and consistently fascinating artists, has worked to unravel the mystery at the mill. His brilliant new show, “Enigma of the mill,” is the most exciting exhibit ever to grace the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Schaefer International Gallery. Sewell’s work is so good; finally, the name international on the gallery fits perfectly. This show is world class in everyway. From the sculptures to the fantastic digital prints, to the state-of-the-art video display in the gallery, this show would be at home in the museum in the world. Its size and scope are extremely ambitious but not beyond Sewell’s prodigious talent. Sewell is an artist in the mold of Man Ray and Marcel Dunchamp, but his vision is more acute and immediately accessible. Sewell has a twinkle in his eye and a keen sense for beauty, which he shows us, exists in the most unlikely places. The show lasts about 45 minutes and it’s one of the quickest and most stimulating 45 minutes the viewer will ever spend. Throughout the production, Sewell provides breathtaking moments. Several times during the opening reception last week, the 200-plus audience members broke into spontaneous applause.

The score for this show was created by compilation of groups like Kronos Quartet, Xploding plastix , Steve Reich , Bob Wareman , Waking the Cobra, Art of Noise, Pable Casals, and most notably original music composed by Maui’s Robert Pollock and performed by the Ebb & Flow Ensemble. The score is so perfect, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t written and created just for this show. This show is a must-see. In fact, everyone in the state should come to Maui to see this show. In this reviewer’s opinion, it’s the most important artistic event in the history of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Schaefer International Galler. If the rest of the world is as lucky as we are, Sewell will get a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation or some other major philanthropist and take this show on the road to share these glorious images with them.


“Enigma of the Mill’ more than worth a visit to MACC”

“I just saw the most wonderful show today-‘Enigma of the Mill’ at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.  Tom Sewell presents the beauty to be found in cane field patterns, in growing sugar crystals and even in such mundane things as peeling paint and rusting machinery.  This beautiful video projected on three walls and set to the throbbing beat of music. It is a wonderful experience, and free! If you enjoy art, go. Thank you, Tom Sewell, for creating such a marvelous piece of art!”

-Al Bayless, Kihei

“Schaefer installation is a must-see exhibition”

“Artist Tom Sewell’s “Enigma of the Mill” installation now showing in the Schaefer Gallery at MACC is a must-see. It is simply beautiful just to look at and listen to with special meaning for the people of Maui. Whether one likes sugar cane growing, its timely theme merging man with machine in nature, as portrayed with great skill, immortalizes a slice of our history. It had to have taken enormous effort by the artist to produce a piece of this magnitude. What an incredible gift Tom has given us.”

-Walter Bruder, Peahi


“You’re a damned genius!” – Bill Mitchell

“Until Rembrandt painted them, windmills were simply mills, driven by the wind to perform a given task. Through his eyes and painting, we now recognize these mills for their aesthetic form as well.  Anyone who views this exhibition and digital presentation of Puunene and Paia sugar mills will never see again see or experience those mills with the same eyes, ears or hands.  Viewing the movie was an experience unlike any other at the cultural center, for the usual array of familiar artists and patrons was replenished by numerous families with some obvious connection to the mills. Here, for possibly the first time, family members were brought closer and given new insights through art. Recognizable objects, brought to life in a kinetic ballet of focused vision, were transformed from simply a place of work to a work of art. Rust, grease, pealing paint, mud stains and all provide a rich backdrop for the noble worker. A proud father sharing his daily toils with his family.

For those who ask, “What is it?” when viewing color, forms and textures presented in an abstract painting, this exhibit provides an answer. Viewers are given a recognizable link between their daily routine and aesthetics. Through the eyes and focus of this artist, participants of all backgrounds and interests find new ways of seeing their mill, their community and beyond. ”

-Dick Nelson