Upcoming Exhibit: Ho’omaluhia Paradise Painters

Paradise Painter’s Show
Ho’omaluhia Garden Gallery (near the Visitor’s Center)
45-680 Luluku Road, Kaneohe, HI
August 1 – 31, 2019

You are invited to view the upcoming exhibit featuring the art of four artists. In the past couple of years it’s been just three of us, Cris Meier, Jaime Mendame, and myself.  We have a new artist this year that I haven’t had a chance to meet yet, but I will when I learn how to spell her name. This annual art display at Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is one of the largest of the year for me.  This year will feature over 20 original paintings, and a couple of giclees (canvas prints), debuting several new paintings both large and small.  There is no reception for this show, but I will be happy to give you a tour upon request.  Please contact me, and we can arrange to meet at the gallery. I will be happy to tell you about my own work and what I know of my talented colleagues as well.  Jaime Mendame often paints on site on the weekends during the duration of this show, and he is very fun to watch.

Notably for me, this show will offer the first chance to see the paintings  “Hauwahine, Guardian of Kawainui” and “Sunset at Na Pohaku o Hauwahine” displayed together.  These are two major works that were inspired by the process of the Association of Hawaii Artists’ recent exhibit, “Wahi Pana: A Sense of Place” that recently finished display at the Honolulu Museum of Art School Main Gallery.  Oahu artists were invited to learn the history of a sacred and storied place of legend (a wahi pana), and then encouraged to use the new information to capture the spirit of the location in art.  This is the first time both related works created about Kawanui’s beautiful Na Pohaku o Hauwahine area will be shown together.  Only “Hauwahine, Guardian of Kawainui” was completed in time for the museum exhibit, but the two paintings depict the everyday beauty and the legendary meaning of the same place, respectively. I feel they are deeply related to each other and I’m glad they will be seen together at least this once.

Hauwahine Guardian of Kawainui

Hauwahine Guardian of Kawainui

Sunrise at Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

Sunrise at Na Pohanu o Hauwahine

Also debuting at this show, the painting, “Anianiau with Orange Ohia”, a painting of the endangered honeycreeper bird from Kauai with the rare orange form of the ohia flowers (featured on the postcard above).  Another major work, “Birds of Kalalau” will be making its first appearance, and several small original affordable works that will not be placed online until after this show. Some paintings always sell during the show, so please take the opportunity to go see it early in its run if you want to see every piece (and/or have first pick!)

HI on Art TV Show Guest

Photo during filming by Will Espero

I am very pleased to announce that I will be one of the guest artists on HI on Art, a new TV show that is currently running on Oahu Spectrum Cable Channel 11 at 11 pm each Saturday.  The episode with my clip will be on July 27, 2019, and you can find it online at the HI on Art website:  https://www.hionart.com/ for a limited time after its airing.  Special thanks to Will Espero and Fred Vanderpoel for taking the time to come to my studio and film the segment – they were wonderful company and very skilled!  Their show is seeking sponsors and artists, and all kinds of community involvement. They do great work!  I will be tuning in each week and look forward to seeing who will be on the show each week.  The premiere was wonderful!  I like the long pan shots of details of the art, and I love hearing the thoughts everyone has to share! Truly, everyone has an interesting story and since I enjoy hearing from other creative people, this is a new favorite show!

 

Hauwahine

Hauwahine Guardian of KawainuiHauwahine Guardian of Kawainui<br/>
18 X 36<br/>
Oil on Panel 

Hauwahine is a shapeshifting Hawaiian diety who protects Kawainui Marsh, the largest open wetland of Kailua. In the stories of Hauwahine, she watches over the area, alternately appearing as a beautiful Hawaiian woman, or a huge lizard/dragon creature called a mo’o to charm or threaten humans as needed to cultivate positive behavior. Stories of mo’o taught values of community and sustainability such as sharing food generously, caring for the land, avoiding overfishing, and paying attention to seasonal water safety. Here I have taken an age-old technique of narrative paintings, showing multiple forms of Hauwahine simultaneously. She sits in human form on the promontory of her own mo’o form which is depicted as stony grey and covered with lichen, which adheres to both the traditional description of Hauwahine’s mo’o form as well as my firsthand observation of the boulders that inspired this mo’olelo. In the sky, a bird soars over the modern marsh toward the rising sun. 

After learning several mo‘olelo (legends) from kumu (Hawaiian teachers), a pattern emerged in my mind. There is a keen observation of rock forms that usually informs the lore of each area, so imagine the “chicken skin” moment when I saw the huge rock that forms Hauwahine’s favorite promontory, Na Pohaku Hauwahine (Boulders of Hauwahine), is shaped like a giant lizard or dragon head! I tried to make my painting reflect the scale of the massive rock. I had seen portrayals of Hauwahine as a lizard at max 8 feet long or thereabouts, but this pohaku (boulder) was seeming to indicate a GIANT lizard, much larger than the usual artistic depictions.  You may also have noticed, if you live in Kailua, that this painting does not depict the kamani trees on the pohaku. I chose not to include them in this particular painting even though I am very happy that they are growing there and seeding out to the areas below the promontory of Na Pohaku o Hauwahine. The decision to exclude the kamani trees was a largely visual choice. I felt like the outline of the mo‘o would get obscured by the trees, so I chose to omit the foliage and leave the mo’o clearly visible.

The depiction of a white fairy tern, a bird no longer living in Kawainui area, is the aspect of my painting that piques the most curiousity to those familiar with her story. The initial oral identification of the bird as a fairy tern was from a caretaker of Na Pohaku on the day we were shown the mo‘o rock. I do not remember his name, but he seemed to know the mo‘olelo of Hauwahine very thoroughly. He told me she could turn into a bird. When I asked what sort of bird she took as her form (because as an oil painter who LOVES to paint birds, this was wonderful news!), he said it was the Manu o Ku, or white fairy tern. I have been able to find the chants about her either turning into a bird or calling a bird or a flock of birds to cast a shadow and block out the sun as a warning, but not the written evidence that it was a fairy tern as of yet.  Hauwahine’s relationship to birds is mentioned in the story of Hi’iaka’s visit to Kailua. There are three versions of this chant by different authors over a considerable span of time, and much like any story which is loved and retold by multiple authors, each one is different, but one of the elements of this mo’olelo is Hauwahine’s ability to send a bird (or a flock of birds) into the sky to darken the sun. In one version of the chant, her relationship to the bird is left vague, allowing for the possibility that she might also in this tale have shapeshifted into a bird. In these chants, no specific bird-type is mentioned. In one of the chant versions, the open wording means she might also have been in the company of other guardians who were shapeshifting into a bird or flock of birds. Plural and singular in Hawaiian language is often determined by context.  Oral history often carries details like this without making it to print as well, so my next step will be to ask a local kumu. I am intrigued and have spent quite lot of time tracking down the chants and stories of Hauwahine, learning a lot in the process.  

Here are some of my favorite resources I have seen during my time of research:

Although I haven’t found my conclusion yet on whether a fairy tern was one of the birds of Hauwahine, it is not an unreasonable idea.  The fairy tern seems an unusual bird if you consider the area in modern times.  They have been extinct from Kailua for a long time and Kawainui is freshwater. The beautiful fairy tern is a saltwater-feeding and coastal bird.  However, they nest inland, as far in as the mountains!  If you consider the nesting habits and the natural history of the area, it becomes quite plausible. Most of Coconut Grove was filled in by manmade means in the 1930s, and the flow of water has been cut off since the levee was constructed, leaving Kaelepulu stream almost dry. In ancient times, Kaelepulu would have been brackish near the ocean, its waters winding through the freshwater fishpond of Kawainui all the way up to the springs and waterfalls of Maunawili.  Without the land filled in by human intervention, Kailua’s coast would have been much closer to Kawainui, and the land would have had more water flowing as well.  The fairy tern would likely have lived along the coast of Kailua not far from the marsh, and nested inland, often flying over the marsh. We see the nesting behavior inland in our Honolulu populations. I am still researching the mo‘olelo of Hauwahine, so there will likely be an update on this point, but I find it highly likely that Hauwahine would have been able to summon assistance from a fairy tern at some point in the history of Kailua’s changing wetlands.

Beautiful Hauwahine, with her fierce mo’o form is a vivid symbol for taking care of our environment. Land all around the marsh has been developed, but the legend of Hauwahine remains strong.  The marsh remains undeveloped and wild, a miracle that is the result of Hawaiians, environmentalists, the difficulties of development in flood plains, and the spirit of Hauwahine working in tandem to keep the land untamed. I hope it will be restored with native flora and fauna, and that someday the white fairy tern population will once more live on the shores of Kailua.