Born Henry Stuart Wilcox, he signed his works either as Hal Stuart or with his adopted name, Piko Siska. Siska was a resident of Laurel Canyon in 1932, and at that time he worked as a set designer in Hollywood as did many artists of that era. The majority of his work features South Pacific themes, but he ranged into Mexico as well and Mexican imagery forms a large part of his oeuvre. Siska's Polynesian art dating from the 1930’s to the 1970’s is rich with Hawaiian inspired imagery. His work respects and reflects the indigenous materials, surroundings, and color palette, thus evoking authentic Hawaiian culture.
Though Piko Siska’s work is somewhat known, his life and back story is much less known. His iconography is inspired by and refers to notable artists of Hawaii such as John Kelly, Robert Eskridge, and Arman Manookian, however, he also integrates indigenous imagery from great, but unrecognized Polynesian artists. The fact that Piko Siska's art has been “stowed away” for decades makes its discovery a surprise that rewards collectors of Hawaiian art with new and exciting imagery.
Piko Siska, born Hal Stuart, adopted his art name, which emphasizes his identification with Hawaiian life. Hawaiian native Serge Kahili King, who in an article titled “Getting Centered” writes, “Naturally, I'm going to call upon Hawaiian tradition for help. The Hawaiian "place" for being centered is the piko , the navel, which also means a "center." Quite a number of ancient cities or areas have used that or a similar name for themselves and that gives us a clue to a deeper meaning. In this respect it refers to that point from which, toward which, and around which everything else moves, literally and figuratively.”
Piko Siska, (1892- 1993) like John Kelly was born in Oakland California. He left at an early age to become a set designer for Hollywood in the 1920’s. He travelled to the Pacific to work on a Dorothy Lamour movie in the 1930’s fell in love with the idyllic languor of the island and its people and quit Hollywood to live and paint in Tahiti in the 30’s. When the war broke out left aboard a Free French Vessel to start his Hawaiian Hand Prints company in Honolulu on Dillingham Road.
The depth and range of Piko Siska paintings and sketches offers a line of Oceanic art that covers a broad spectrum with portraits of “Hawaiian beauties,” village life on the islands as well as deco murals that incorporate tapa designs, and the natural world.
Author and collector Jerry Stroud has made a pastime of documenting and cataloguing Siska's life work. We eagerly await the publication of Jerry Stroud's account of Piko Siska's travels and works relating to the South Pacific, Mexico and Central America. Without Jerry's dedication and drive to promote the works of this artist, he would have continued to languish in obscurity.