Ken was born on October 16, 1933 in Los Angeles, California. He spent his childhood in Southern California and New Mexico. He followed his love of art early in life and pursued a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Los Angeles ("UCLA"). Following his graduation from UCLA in 1956, he enlisted in the United States Navy and was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina. He married his first wife, Renee in 1957 with whom he had two children, Blake and Dale. After being honorably discharged in 1960 he went back to school, received his MFA from the University of Hawaii in 1961, joined the faculty in the art department teaching painting and drawing, and was appointed Chairman of the Art Department in 1991. He retired in 1999 and retained professor emeritus status with the University of Hawaii.
As a college professor for almost 40 years he had the opportunity to help guide the direction of his students. We are often reminded by many of these students of how generous he was in sharing his knowledge and the impact it made on shaping their own careers and works. Ken and his second wife, Helen Gilbert, a recognized artist in her own right, were esteemed members of the art department for many years.
Throughout the years of teaching and mentoring future artists, his passion always remained the work that he envisioned, designed and created. His retirement allowed him to further embrace this passion. He was known for his superb draftsmanship depicting the human figure. He also spent years highlighting his love of the delicate Hawaiian flora that surrounded him, an example of which hangs in Terminal 1 of the Daniel K. Inouye Airport. His early interest in architecture translated into a decades long focus on geometric abstract paintings most notably his Euclidean Dream Cycle, each piece of which highlights point, line, plane and geometric angles and arcs.
Ken was a well-respected member of the art community in Hawaii. His pieces were featured in both solo and collaborative exhibitions at the Honolulu Museum of Art and the Contemporary Museum of Art. Many of his works were procured by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts as well as privately commissioned. He enjoyed worldwide recognition and his art is part of several public collections including The British Museum, The Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of Modern Art (New York), The Whitney Museum (New York) and The Bibliotheque Nationale de France among others.
Ken and Helen spent their years together traveling the world, eventually settling in on an annual routine of splitting their time between their main base in Hawaii, a loft in Manhattan and a home in the South of France. Their art was inspired by the creative energy they found in each locale through cultural and environmental influences.
A soft-spoken man, Ken will be remembered for his sense of humor and quick wit. Truly a "citizen of the world", Ken's artistic legacy will last generations.
Ken is survived by son, Blake (wife Della) Bushnell, daughter Dale Bushnell, and grandsons Greg Bushnell and John Fujimoto. He is also survived with affection by seven Gilbert step-children: Cara, Lisa, Fred "Gil", Gerald, Galen, Kristin and Rondi; and their spouses, partners, children and grandchildren.
Private services are pending.
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