Sitting on the front steps of Parker School, a teenage boy pensively gazes at Mauna Kea, not knowing why, and yet, in his heart he knows he is home.
One winter day, living in New Jersey, his father returned home from a trip to Hawai‘i and asked 15 year old Ethan, “Do you want to move to Hawai‘i? I’ll buy you a car!” Two months later, they arrived in Hilo, picked up the car, and at Christmas break, Ethan found himself basking in the ocean at Hapuna.
Arriving in Waimea, Ethan Tweedie was immediately captivated by Hawai‘i Island. The majestic mountain, the serene ocean at Hapuna Beach, the starlit skies and beauty of Waimea were all at his feet .
“It’s about life,” says Ethan when asked what motivates him. He was fascinated with photography as a child and carried that passion with him to Parker School, where he took photography classes as part of the activity program. His best friend’s father, Warren Roll, was Chief Photographer for the Honolulu Star- Bulletin. Warren also taught photography at Parker School, which surrounded Ethan with the essence of capturing images on film.
Ethan’s grandfather, Harold Tweedie, was also a photographer and an amateur geologist. Subsequently, many of Ethan’s childhood memories were seeds planted in what would become his profession.
Ethan graduated from University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa with a degree in geology, all the while continuing his studies in photography and honing his skills as the school newspaper photographer. As life would have it, Ethan took a job as a stockbroker for Dean Witter in Honolulu, and his career in finance took him to the plains of Texas just north of Dallas.
Successfully building a client base in the investment world, Ethan was recruited by a pharmaceutical company where he stayed for 12 years. Ethan’s travels centered on the national parks and anywhere he could capture the light refracting on nature.
In 2003, Ethan bought his first digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera and a world of creativity opened for him. Rafting in the Grand Canyon for five days, Ethan knew capturing nature’s images is what he was meant to do. His passion was to bring all of life’s lessons together— the geology, the weather patterns, the photography— it was all here for him behind the lens. And the light, always the light, gave him lessons upon lessons of how to make his work increasingly better. Ethan enrolled in the Texas School of Photography and began intensive studies, mentored by some of the best photographers in the business.
In the summer of 2009, Ethan’s mother and stepfather called him with an invitation that had a familiar resonance to his earlier years: “Do you want to join us in Hawai‘i?” Having been away from the islands for more than a decade, Ethan eagerly accepted the invitation for what appeared to be a two-week vacation. Driving up towards Kawaihae, a road all too familiar to him, he was in reach of the mountain, and a voice from within inquired, “Why did I ever leave?”
Now back home again, Ethan was even more in tune with the beauty of the island and the light. Revisiting his hometown of Waimea, seeing old friends, connecting to the mountain once again, Ethan knew there was more to his homecoming than a short visit. On a drive to Volcano, Ethan recalls seeing a shipping container in a restaurant parking lot. The paint was worn off on one section of the container and someone had taken their finger and written “Be In The Moment.” That became Ethan’s motto. It is how he has always lived and what photography taught him—always be in the moment.
Ethan returned to Texas, only to sell his house, finish his studies, and pack up his belongings. In six months, he was back in Waimea—home again. While packing up his personal items, Ethan found old letters from his grandparents. With a touching expression of tear-filled eyes, Ethan reminisced about summers he and his brother spent with his maternal grandparents in Michigan. Fond memories of ‘ohana, carefree days, American values, and always respect for his grandparents. Ethan favors his grandfather, Waldo Hanson, in looks and in his gregarious personality. While his grandfather passed away in 1998, Ethan still feels his presence and guidance, particularly on days when he is getting ready for a photo shoot.
When asked what inspires him, Ethan says, “It is God. God is telling me what to do. Before I walk into a shoot, I ask for God’s vision and ask, ‘Let me see this through your eyes.’ If not for him, there is nothing.”
Never truer was one night, after working a 16-hour day touring Hawai‘i Volcano National Park for Hawai‘i Forest & Trail, Ethan was driving home on Kawaihae Road. The moon was centered in front of him. The winds were gusting between 30 and 40 miles per hour; the rain was falling like spears from the sky. And a voice, a familiar voice, said, “There’s going to be a moonbow to your left.”
As quickly as Ethan heard the instruction, the moonbow appeared. He stopped the car, gathered his camera and tripod, battled the weather conditions, and found a spot where his back sheltered his camera from the wind and the rain. As he set up for the 30-second exposure, he looked at his camera screen and it read, ‘card error.’ He tried again and the same message appeared, equally as bold. Quickly, Ethan grabbed another memory card, watching for the eminent vaporization of the moonbow, he reset the entire shot again. He took two photos and the moonbow disappeared. Yet, as luck would have it, one photo captured it all! The photo went viral, and is now internationally known as “Waimea Moonbow,” a gift to all of us who may never see a moonbow in the dark of the night.
Perhaps Ethan’s greatest talent is understanding and capturing Hawai‘i’s astonishing light. He remarks, “Every photo that is taken is all about the right light—where the sun is, where the moon is, the angle of the light.”
In another photo adventure in August of 2012, Ethan’s friend and Park Ranger at the Pu‘ukoholā Heiau, Greg Cunningham, asked if Ethan was going to take pictures of the Perseids meteor shower. Ethan thought that was a fine idea and it created a vision for him to shoot south with the heiau in the foreground and the Milky Way in its vertical position.
That August night, Ethan set out for the photo shoot, soon realizing he did not have his camera battery with him. With the weather in an uncooperative state, Ethan decided to try again the next night.
The following day, he followed rainbows from Hawi, shooting the sunset at Upolu Point and the windmills under the night’s starry sky with the meteor shower in full array. As this show concluded, Ethan thought, now is the time to go to the heiau.
In the stillness of the night, headlamp secured, watching the moon beams reflect on the calm waters of the bay, Ethan sat and waited. In a moment’s time, the Milky Way ascended to its most vertical reach, and was captured by the shutter of Ethan’s camera. “The Milky Way at Pu‘ukoholā Heiau” is an iconic photo, enveloping the ancient culture of Hawai‘i’s revered Ali‘i, the sacredness of the ‘āina, and witnessed by the star-studded galaxy. “The Place of Destiny,” the Pu‘ukoholā Heiau, was certainly seen in all its beauty on this summer night.
Ethan takes a moment to honor his education and experience at Parker School. He is filled with pride and appreciation for the school’s founders, administrators, and teachers. The mission of the school is based on Excellence, Integrity, and Compassion.
The Parker School Value Shield, remains with Ethan today. The strong foundation has kept him centered in who he is and what he has to offer, all in the name of humility and respect.
You can feel the reverence Ethan has for Waimea, from the beauty of the Parker Ranch to the summit of Mauna Kea, this is where Ethan’s heart resides. As his award-winning photography spans the globe, Ethan remains loyal to his community, always remembering the source of where he started.
A major subject of Ethan’s work is Mauna Kea, the mountain that inexplicably calls to him. “I am just drawn to it,” he says.
“I don’t know why, I can remember seeing it the day I moved here. I stare at it all the time. I look at it all day long. It fascinates me. The light is always different.”
He continues to express that he needs to live where he can see the mountain and remarks, “If I can’t see the mountain, it feels like the umbilical cord is disconnected. There’s an emptiness in my heart.”
As much as Ethan loves all the variety and beauty of Hawai‘i Island, it is clear that the center of it all is Mauna Kea, from which he draws his creativity, drive, passion, and wonderment.
Ethan’s path has ventured into luxury real estate and architectural photography. He states that shooting architecture is some of the most difficult work. When asked why, Ethan says, “The light. If you are inside shooting out to capture the view, you are working against the light.” Yet it is this challenge plus the detail, the beauty, the aesthetic design, and the precision that captivates Ethan to perfect his craft. In a highly competitive field, this acclaimed photographer remains an ever-present student. Ethan is passionate about his gifted profession and mindfully reflects that when you do something that you are meant to do, it is not work.
A young boy who was brought to the island shaped into a man and artist deeply connected to the mountain and the land. His art has been nurtured by the teachings at his local school and by his respect and reverence for his grandparents and parents. What developed from the sum of Ethan’s experiences is more than a photo. What developed is a man with a humble yet brilliant gift of capturing images for all of us to experience.
How many of us could see the Milky Way hovering over the Pu‘ukoholā Heiau, or see the moonbow crossing over the road in the night’s sky, or embrace the colors cascading over Mauna Kea? We all can, visitors and residents alike through the elegance of Ethan Tweedie’s inner eye and outward lens. This is his contribution. So many of his life lessons and teachings are brought forward to this present moment, where he unveils the gifts that were shown only to him and captured with the click of a camera.
Where once a young boy sat on the front steps of the Parker School gazing off to the mountain, now a grown man pays homage to that which has imprinted the graces of his life. A moonbow is a rainbow produced by light reflected off the surface of the moon (versus the sun) refracting off of moisture in the air. A rare sight to see, indeed. ❖
Ethan Tweedie’s fine art prints can be found in galleries on Hawai‘i Island: Wishard Gallery in Waimea, Harbor Gallery in Kawaihae, and Wishard Gallery at the Queens’ MarketPlace.
Contact Ethan Tweedie: EthanTweedie.com Photos courtesy of Ethan Tweedie.
Contact writer Gayle ‘Kaleilehua’ Greco:
Peter Honeyman stands inside a booth at the Hilo Farmers Market addressing passersby.
“That’s not silk, it’s not a fabric, not a synthetic. They’re all the real thing,” he says, pointing.
It’s hot. Everyone who passes by looks flushed. Peter squints into the sun at them, without a trace of the heat or a drop of sweat on his smiling face. The slight wrinkles at the corners of his eyes reflect a certain soft determination one can only identify as love.
He’s talking about Hawai‘i Island grown flowers and sea plants: dramatic orchids, limu (algae), and miniature wildflowers that undergo two unmatched processes of preservation. The first, a method of preserving orchids, is a patented process developed by Peter himself.
“They’re not brought in from anywhere else. I live here, the flowers and plants grow here, and I preserve them here,” he says.
He adds, “They’re preserved to be pliable. They come with a written guarantee that says that if they ever get spoiled for any reason, you can send them back and I’ll replace them,” he assures onlookers.
Looking at the table, these orchids are amazing. They look, feel, and behave like fresh cut orchids. And yet they are completely preserved, almost as if he’s captured a pristine moment in nature.
The second process involves sealing miniature wildflowers and limu in resin.
“This here is an algae that grows on the rocks right down there,” he says, pointing towards Hilo Bay across the street. “Its beauty is in the way the little tendrils go out and form those fascinating designs.”
These particular onlookers eventually thank him and walk away. His work is not for everybody, he says, and, “Every now and again some gem comes in who is really interested.”
Peter’s customers have “an appreciation of flowers in a manner in which they’d like to wear them, as opposed quite distinctly to someone who loves a beautiful garden.
My customers are not necessarily gardeners at all, but they do have a great ‘feeling’ for flowers.
My customers are relatively intellectual and thinking people, more mature, and mostly women,” he explains.
He also adds that 90 percent of his sales are bought as gifts.
Another couple passes by. “Have you seen these before?” chirps Peter. The couple shakes their heads. “Well then you haven’t lived!” he chuckles.
Peter’s business, Wearable Real Flowers of Hawaii, is somewhat the product of many years of figuring out what he didn’t want to do in life.
Peter spent his formative years in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where he inherited a love of botany.
“My mother would never throw away a live flower. Her favorites were grasses. She was fascinated by them, saying, ‘Why doesn’t everybody see what I see in grass?’ As a little boy I was schooled with grass. The flora [in central Africa] is just wonderful,” says Peter.
As a young man he went on to acquire degrees in law and economics, and a Master’s Degree in business. He worked for a time with the police, then as a public prosecutor (district attorney), later an assistant magistrate, and went on to join a large South African based international corporation where he worked his way ultimately to Chief Executive.
“Back here, totally on my own, doing what I’m doing, have been the seven happiest years of my life. When you’re in a business atmosphere, they’re all doing what is most important for them. I realized that what I was doing was proving to myself I could do things that were not naturally what I wanted to be doing,” says Peter.
He has been working with flowers since 1989, doing so-called “slow work” in exchange for the “fast work” of his past. Even so, his success with his preservation techniques has taken him all over the world where he sells out at most flower shows and TV shopping networks.
“I do not just turn a machine on and produce all night.
There’s a season when the flowers are growing, and I’m watching them and emotionally urging them to look the way I want. For instance, when I go underwater looking for limu, I don’t just go out and grab something. Something makes me want to ponder them, and there’s something there that calls out, ‘This one is going to appreciate what I’m doing’,” says Peter.
Perhaps most notable about Peter’s work is his unique patented preservation process. Prior to developing the method, he ran a business on O‘ahu that sold exclusively to gift shops at airports all over North America.
“I would never fail to be impressed by the huge number of flowers at airports. I thought, ‘You can’t get out of Honolulu in less than a four or five hour flight, and what do those flowers look like at the other end?’ Sometime later, I was in San Francisco and I came out of an airport business meeting right as a flight from Honolulu was disembarking. These women came out looking exhausted and the flowers looked worse,” Peter says. He began to brainstorm a business opportunity, looking for a way to preserve the flowers so they could be enjoyed long-term.
“It took me forever to get it right. I thought you could go to the floral industry and buy a bottle of something. They all laughed at me, and when I told them what I was trying to do they said I was looking for the Holy Grail. I thought they were trying to keep me out, but after about six months of research I didn’t see any of them doing what I wanted. I came to the conclusion that they did not know how to do it,” says Peter.
While researching how he might preserve flowers, Peter discovered it is common in Europe to see pressed flowers under glass. However, this allows a minute space for air which can oxidize the flowers, thereby discoloring them.
“I researched and was not happy with the risk. I didn’t invent this, I read up on the technology. I place my dehydrated flowers into whatever setting I’m using and pour hot resin over them.
Because the flowers are so dry, they suck up every bit of the resin in every cell, which allows no air inside, hence no discoloration.”
With one technique up-and-running, Peter continued to experiment. Through a lengthy process of trial and error, he eventually developed an unprecedented method of preserving orchids and roses so they remained pliable, retain their colors, and were strong enough to be practical to wear.
“There’s a certain amount of satisfaction at having solved what hundreds of people have not. I’ve got this need to feel that what I’m doing is unique,” Peter adds.
As for his pressed flowers, Peter has chosen flowers that the average person might pass on a daily basis.
“I’ve chosen them because the average person going down any nice country walk or down the side of the road would see them. I’m astonished how tourists notice them and the locals don’t,” says Peter.
Later, standing on the lānai of his Ainako home, he points to the lawn.
“In this patch of grass there’s one particular little flower used in my designs. I go out there on my hands and knees picking these tiny things. To anybody else I’m being a nutcase out on my lawn—I’m not, I’m actually working,” he laughs.
He also smiles as he talks about gathering limu. “The other day I collected my latest batch at Richardson’s Beach. I was putting the stuff into containers and labeling them.
Somebody came up and asked, ‘What on earth are you doing?’ And I said, ‘I’m working.’ He didn’t believe me. It then dawned on me that I’d been having fun working at my daily job,” he says. And while some might think Peter is reaching retirement, he attests to feeling 21 years old.
“The technical aspects of it give me some satisfaction in that I’ve achieved something that nobody else has done. When I see the facial expressions of someone opening a gift of my product that someone’s given to them and puts it on, I know I’m bringing to them a wonderful feeling,” he smiles.
Recently, a teen passed by his booth and picked up a flower that he turned and put on his mother’s lapel.
“I don’t think she studied the flower. What she knew was that she was wearing what he thought was beautiful, which in turn made her beautiful. I think of how I am exciting and satisfying emotions. When I see that pleasure, I know I’ve something worthwhile,” he says.
As Peter sits on his lovely shaded porch, looking out at the mountain stream that bubbles through the gardens, it seems that maybe he doesn’t even realize how he’s touched others.
“My oldest daughter was talking to my younger daughter, and she said, ‘Look at him, he hasn’t been happier in years. He’s working with the Divine’,” he remembers.
A humble artist, he begins to protest, “It totally caught me unawares. I didn’t realize that she appreciated what I’m doing. I work with flowers, people dismiss it—it’s fleamarket stuff—but she understood what I’m doing,” he says, with just a hint of wetness in the corner of his smiling eyes. In that moment he finally exposes the real man behind the flowers. ❖
Peter Honeyman’s Wearable Real Flowers of Hawaii can be found Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Hilo Farmers Market, at the monthly Kailua Village Stroll, and on his website.
Contact Peter Honeyman: RealFlowerJewelry.com
Contact writer Le‘a Gleason:
"My mission is to create a sense of place in my work,” says Lāna‘i artist Mike Carroll.
Mission accomplished. His gallery at 443 Seventh Street in the heart of Lāna‘i City is filled with images that portray his surroundings and illustrate why he fell in love with the place. Mike and his wife, Kathy, visited Lāna‘i on their 20th wedding anniversary trip in 1999, and by their fifth day on the island, they put money down on an abandoned house.
“The plan was to escape winter in Chicago,” Mike says. “We figured we’d give it two years and if things didn’t work out, we’d move back to the mainland. We had yard sales in the snow to ‘decumulate.’ Luckily, Plan A worked so we didn’t need Plan B.”
Before he had any plans to move to a beautiful and remote tropical isle, Mike double majored in art and biology at Western Maryland College and earned a B.A. with honors in art. He then attended the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he was awarded a master’s degree in medical illustration from the department of art as applied to medicine.
For more than 20 years, Mike worked as a medical illustrator.
During that time, he received national recognition for both his medical and non-medical art and had work featured in the prestigious PRINT Regional Design Atlas and Communication Arts magazines.
“Life as an illustrator was one big deadline,” according to Mike. “Paintings have more life. My palette changed from the gray tones of Chicago to the brighter colors of Lāna‘i. And, I decided to use a bigger brush. The one I use now to sign my work is the biggest I ever used as an illustrator.” Yet the demands of illustration did not match the artist within.
Mike and Kathy made the leap to Lāna‘i in 2001. “I was ready to leave my shovel in the snow,” chuckles Mike. “It took us 15 minutes to adjust to island life.”
At first they packed up paintings, prints, easels, tables, and some clothes then hopped the ferry to go to Maui. They would sell Mike’s work at art fairs held weekends under the Banyan Tree in Lāhainā by crossing the ‘Au‘au Channel on Saturday, staying on the couch at a friend’s house, and catching the last boat back to Lāna‘i on Sunday. They stopped taking the weekend treks across the channel in 2002 when they opened the Mike Carroll Gallery in Lāna‘i City.
Lāna‘i City was built in 1922 by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (later known as Dole) to house and support its plantation workers. Remnants of its pineapple past remain and Lāna‘i City is modernly more of a village with a park-like atmosphere and a strong sense of community. “It’s the last intact plantation town,” Mike likes to tell visitors to his gallery. In the gallery’s off hours, you may see Mike walking around the small island to see what captures his eye as the subject for one of his next paintings. “The morning and evening light is great to paint here,” he says. “Life moves slowly on Lāna‘i and my paintings are quiet. I have fun watching them develop and hope they capture the light and feel of our little island.”
His paintings do indeed capture the light and feel of Lāna‘i: they depict local people, pets, and the quaint, colorful buildings of this sleepy, tranquil island along with the rich colors and muted hues of Lāna‘i’s landscape and the glow of tropical light that runs from warm and subdued to bright and brilliant.
You get the picture in his images of familiar island life.
“Still Fishing” is a portrait of a local guy’s fishing boat with outriggers extended and and fish flags flying even though it’s not out to sea, but perched on a grassy spot under palm trees. “Room and Board” illustrates a typical island scene—an old Jeep wagon next to a surfboard leaning against a rustic shed [see p. 18]. “Golden Afternoon” captures the light late in the day illuminating a characteristic Lāna‘i City plantation house with a corrugated red tin roof and deep red ti plants lining the entrance.
The island’s vermillion-hued rocks, blue sky, and reflective shoreline pools make an idyllic scene in a landscape entitled “Afternoon Reflections.” Mike’s painting, “Welcome Home,” depicts one of the island’s colorfully-painted houses with an inviting red door just waiting to be opened for welcome guests. He exhibits his paintings in his light and airy gallery. Housed in a picturesque vintage building, it is the perfect showcase for his work. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual. There is no high pressure sales pitch. Here, there is an opportunity to meet the artist. Mike is friendly and approachable—he welcomes all who enter and puts them at ease. His work, including original oil paintings, ready-to-frame prints, and limited edition prints, are available in a varied range of sizes and price points.
Since moving to Lāna‘i, Mike’s work has been selected for major competitions such as Art Maui— the prestigious juried show of works by Maui artists, and all three statewide Schaefer Portrait Challenges exhibited once a year at the impressive Schaefer Gallery at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. He is one of 15 artists from the state of Hawai‘i to be selected as a Signature Member of the Plein Air Painters of Hawai‘i.
Plein Air means painting in the open air, capturing the changing and sometimes fleeting effects of the sunlit outdoors.
In February 2006, Mike was among 25 artists from across the nation to be invited to the first Maui Invitational Plein Air PaintOut. Subsequently, he was tapped as a member of the Invitational’s sponsoring organization, the Islanders, a group of 10 plein air painters recording the life and landscape of Hawai‘i. He has participated in each annual Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational since 2006.
“I’m fortunate that my work has been juried into exhibitions across the state. This has given me the opportunity to meet and paint with outstanding artists whose work and work ethic dovetails nicely into our vision for the gallery,” says Mike. “When we opened the gallery, we decided we didn’t want a ‘vanity gallery’ with only my paintings—how boring would that be to go into day after day?” So, the works of others are on display. For instance, you’ll find “created on Lāna‘i” canvases by artists such as Randy Sexton (2011 Artist Choice Winner, Carmel) and Billy O’Donnell (2012 Best Of Show Winner, Laguna Beach). The works of local artists including Pam Andelin, Ronaldo Macedo, Kirk Kurokawa, and Joana Varawa are on display at Mike’s gallery, too.
His gallery also features handcrafted jewelry, a collection of greeting cards, turned bowls made from local woods, photography, souvenir prints, pottery, models of Hawaiian voyaging canoes, and Asian antiques. Mike is usually in his gallery and welcomes guests so they feel at home. If he’s not on his daily strolls or in his gallery, Mike is at the Four Seasons Resort Lodge at Koele exhibiting, working, and sharing his sense of place with hotel guests. One of his favorite subjects to paint while there is Koele, the Lodge’s resident cat.
Cats are important to the artist and his wife. “Kitty Korner” in his gallery is a donation center for the Lāna‘i Animal Rescue Center, a facility that comes to the aid of unwanted and feral cats from around the island. Kathy founded the Center and has dedicated her life to saving and caring for these animals. The sale of T-shirts and other souvenirs directly benefits the Center.
“I’m pretty sure you won’t find another gallery in Hawai‘i that donates 100 percent of its proceeds as we do with this section, and we feel it’s important to give back to our community,” explains Mike. The Rescue Center is located in Mike and Kathy’s house. (Since their first “fixer upper” they have moved to a larger 1920s plantation manager’s residence that also houses Mike’s studio). “There are cats and kittens all over the place,” he laughs.
Lāna‘i is now his place, but it’s not the only spot where Mike has created a sense of place. Since 2004, Mike has been selected as “Artist in Residence” for the Seattle Study Club’s annual Symposia. In this capacity, he has painted Symposium locales such as Laguna Beach and Carlsbad, California, Cancun, and the Yucatan in Mexico. He has also painted in Italy, capturing the light, look, and flavor of that country. In the spring of 2013, Mike travelled to Japan, a place he’d never been before. “We hadn’t had a vacation in a few years,” he says, “and the cherry blossoms were in bloom.” So, he went to another exotic locale to adventure and paint. And to pursue his mission of creating a sense of place. ❖
Contact Mike Carroll: MikeCarrollGallery.com
Photos of paintings courtesy of Mike Carroll.
Contact writer Linda Olds:
When I first met Evelyn she was sitting behind a table of brightly painted rocks, her slight frame illuminated by sparkling green eyes and rosy cheeks. “Welcome to the teenie tiny Laupāhoehoe Farmers Market,” she said with a gracious smile as I glanced around to the no more than ten booths that made up the market. “Over there we have the sandwich lady and the card family, and over there, the spice lady, and the banana man,” she says, pointing to the vendors surrounding her. “We like to name them like that. I’m the little old rock lady,” she giggles. Evelyn’s sweet nature is as vibrant as the colorful art pieces displayed in front of her.
With a steady hand and a fine brush, Evelyn Musacchia paints everything from houses, animals, underwater scenes and landscapes on a multitude of rock surfaces. Soon after she finishes a piece of rock art she takes its photograph and puts the picture into an album. Once the rock has been sold, she prints the name of the owner and where it will be living, and adds it to the album.
“When I paint them they almost become a part of me. So I like to know where they are living in the world.”
As we’re chatting, a woman passes by her booth, stops from a distance, and approaches. Her eyes are set on a particular rock.
“This looks exactly like my mom’s dog!” she exclaims. She picks up the rock, while Evelyn asks for a mere five dollars for the gem. “You tell me where Shitzu is going,” requests Evelyn. “To Sally in Aurora, Illinois,” the woman replies. Evelyn takes out her notebook and jots down the rock’s new home and owner.
What’s more, she names each and every one of her rocks, “The idea to name them makes them more loveable,” she smiles, flipping through one of her many albums. “This is Rolfe,” she says, pointing to the photograph of a detailed elephant, painted on a flat, seemingly smooth rock. “He lives with George right in my town of Pāpa‘aloa. I like that he’s so close by.”
Evelyn has a vivid memory and a knack for remembering names. If you ask, she’s more than willing to share the history of every single rock. And some stories go deep.
Pulling out another album, she flips through its pages and stops at a photograph of Laupāhoehoe Point painted on a rounded, upright piece of basalt rock from the Point itself. “This woman came to my booth in Hilo. She just kept staring at this rock.
Then she said, ʻI have to have that for my boyfriend.ʻ” Evelyn says. Unfortunately, the boyfriend’s daughter had been killed on the mainland, and he couldn’t attend her funeral.
The couple had gone to the very spot painted on Evelyn’s rock, and had thrown lei into the ocean in her memory. “That rock held a special, special significance to them. Isn’t that just beautiful?”
I notice a group of painted houses on oddly shaped, jagged, upright rocks. Then a group of what she calls, the “pick-ableup- ables”—smooth, rounded rocks where she’s painted bunnies, hamsters, and other “pet-able” furry creatures.
“When I find a rock that I like, I can see almost immediately what is going to be painted on it by its shape, its color, its texture,” she says.
Her favorite things to paint are animals, and she’s painted nearly every creature in the kingdom. From Travis, the bald eagle; to Magnus, the gecko; and Kingston, the chipmunk.
Her best sellers are a collection of two painted frogs sitting side by side. “I call them the ‘famous pairs’ because I name them after wellknown duos,” she says. “People are intrigued by them.”
The pairs include, “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Anthony and Cleopatra,” “Jack and Jill,” “Mork and Mindy,” and “Thelma and Louise.”
Evelyn grew up in Pasadena, California in the 1930s. She eventually moved to Hawai‘i Island to work as a therapist with the Easter’s Seals Treatment Center between 1957 and 1977.
Hawai‘i Island is also where she became interested in the Bahá’i religion, so much that after 20 years in Hawai‘i, she moved to their main headquarters in Israel where she lived and worked for seven years before moving back to California.
Her first painting was done in her mid-60s on a large canvas: it was a bright orange bird of paradise, inspired by an art class at the YMCA in Hilo. It was her niece—and consequently the founder of the Laupāhoehoe Farmers Market—Arlene Hussey, who inspired Evelyn’s rock art. “Arlene painted me a rock with a Bahá’i quote on it that read, “The world is one country and mankind its citizens,ʻ” she recalls without a moment of hesitation. “I loved it. And I thought—I can do that!”
Initially she took to painting the Bahá’i religion’s main symbol, the nine-pointed star, which represents perfection and unity. With an all-consuming devotion she eventually painted and sold more than $2,500 worth of nine-pointed stars, donating all proceeds to help pay for the Bahá’i center in San Clemente, California.
Evelyn recently moved back to Hawai‘i to retire in Pāpa‘aloa.
“Hawai‘i is the perfect place to live.
I love the Hāmākua Coast. It’s cool up here. I love cool weather. And it’s country here. I love country,” she smiles. But what about painting on Hawaiian rocks—rocks that hold such mana, such life force, such power?
Legend has it that Pele, the Volcano Goddess, becomes so angered when her rocks leave the island that she exacts a downpour of bad luck on the rock’s taker.
Evelyn respects the legend, “When you hold a rock you can absolutely feel its energy,” she says. This legend is a big reason she imports rocks from California.
Evelyn’s rocks are priced between $5–$100. She doesn’t advertise her art, nor does she have a website. “I don’t want to make it any more than a cottage industry.” So you’ll have to mosey on over to the teenie tiny Laupāhoehoe Farmers Market early on a Sunday morning to meet the Little Old Rock Lady for yourself. She’ll be so pleased to meet you. ❖
Contact writer Jessica Kirkwood:
Guided by her passion for painting, teaching, and facilitating workshops for healing, Beth Marcil has been employing art as a profound transformational tool for more than 30 years.
Beth lovingly shares and nurtures in others what has been instrumental in her own evolution, artistically and spiritually. She describes her work as “helping to light the creative spark within others, as well as myself. I want people to have the liberating experience of creativity which has been so impactful in my own life.”
Bethʻs love affair with color and texture has earned her great respect among peers and collectors. The energetically vibrant works are shown in gallery exhibitions and hang in numerous private collections. Her continuing exploration of different media expresses itself through recurring themes, including ongoing visual documentation of the kalo culture, the taro farmers of Hawai‘i.
A pivotal moment in her artistic growth occurred in 1997 when Beth created a piece for SHRINES: The Intersection of Art and Ritual, an exhibit at the Hui No‘eau. “The intention was for everyone in the show to create a shrine of some sort,” recalls Marcil. “I ended up focusing my mixed-media piece on my ancestors, the Lebanese women family members. What I realized through the process of creating it was profound. Although I had done a lot of other beautiful work, I felt that this was the first truly authentic art I had created. It came from deep within the gut. Its impact on other people was astonishing to me, and that’s when I started to ‘get’ just how transformational art can be.”
Later, through the process of searching for a way to express herself more personally and intuitively in book form, Beth began a practice of visual journaling—recording her life experience and feelings through images and words via an “art diary.” She is the only one on Maui teaching this to others. Non-artists and professionals alike are drawn to her workshops. “One of the most popular mixed techniques is glazing thin layers of paint over collaged images and then wiping parts away. It is akin to an archeological dig. All sorts of tools are employed—anything that will engage the child in people. That child comes in and plays, and that leads to deeper insights.”
One of Beth’s unique skills is the ability to provide a safe and fun environment for people of all ages. She serves as a kind of “creative midwife,” encouraging the confidence to experiment and go deeper. She believes all of us have the ability to create art. Conveying our inner world both visually and with words reveals insights into ourselves bringing to light what is hidden. The highly intuitive and deliciously enjoyable process of visual journaling in Beth’s workshops enables people to find their own unique language of imagery and to express that inner world. Reflecting upon, and then sharing what was created, allows participants to become aware of the connections between the image and their world that they might not otherwise have access to.
The process can be profoundly healing, both emotionally and physically.
According to Elizabeth Warson, a professor at George Washington University’s art therapy program, the regular practice of creating by means of an art journal can reduce the heart rate, increase serotonin flow and immune cell production, and decrease stress.
In addition to visual journaling, Beth facilitates another dynamic workshop. SoulCollage® was originally formulated by Seena Frost, a student of the renowned symbolist and expert in myth and archetypal psychology, Jean Houston. “It involves producing an incredible deck of cards with deep personal meaning. A reflective process of dialoguing with the imagery naturally enables written expression. It is so exciting to see how this enriches the visual journaling helping with people’s life questions and transitions,” Beth explains.
The transformational possibilities became immediately evident to Beth who describes it this way: “As a visual journaling teacher, I instruct my students how to layer various media to tap into their inner worlds. SoulCollage® added a piece which has proven quite powerful. I am continually surprised by the discoveries that emerge through the marriage of these two practices and the tenderness participants experience as they give voice to the formerly hidden and unloved parts of themselves. It’s like witnessing the opening of a rare, beautiful flower.”
In 2012, as the evolutionary process continued, that flower opened into fuller bloom after a conversation between Beth, a teaching artist for the State of Hawai‘i, and Susana Browne, Education Director at the MACC. Browne, who had taken one of Beth’s SoulCollage® classes, saw that it could be a valuable tool for teens. The result was a county grant funding an arts integrated collaboration between Marcil as visual arts specialist and Melanie Chan, a language arts teacher at a local middle school. The creative sparks began flying when the two came together.
Adapting the principles of SoulCollage® to the middle school environment, IT’S ALL IN THE CARDS was born. As with SoulCollage®, students chose images that they were intuitively drawn to. They used these to create their cards. Dialoguing with the card, interpreting its meaning and noting the feelings it evoked, they completed various written assignments, including a powerful personal narrative based upon the card.
When the time for sharing with the group came, it was evident that a powerful vehicle for the teenagers to express their hopes, fears, and challenges had been created. The process brought into consciousness emotional and mental material that most had not expressed aloud until then. These insights brought about emotional growth and oftentimes resolution. The project expanded to include another class that will be making a documentary video.
IT’S ALL IN THE CARDS proved to be a revolutionary educational tool. The results were so extraordinary, in fact, that a further modified version is being presented at another middle school in Wai‘anae next quarter culminating in a poetry slam. Here, teens will begin with the images and will produce poetry rather than prose.
The operative principle is a lyric from an old song, “everybody has a story to tell,” and it can be told in multiple ways. Beyond what makes a good story is the ability to listen to other people’s stories and make an emotional connection to them.
As the ability of the teenagers to observe, describe, interpret, and evaluate what was becoming visible developed, the implications and relevance in today’s society were being revealed.
“Watching what we saw with the kids was a blooming of compassion within their hearts for each other that wasn’t there before.
There was a shift in their perceptions of each other. They were making connections between themselves and the images/text, between each other, and with the world. This is a big leap. Their voices are important, they are the voices of our future, and not too distant future either,” observes Beth. With additional grants to support it, IT’S ALL IN THE CARDS has the potential to become part of a national curriculum for teenagers. In our Western culture, this age group has few ways to accommodate the stresses inherent in maturing into adulthood.
There have been essentially no rites of passage—until now. Beth loves working with the teenagers. She remembers that she was about this age when she discovered the benefits of art to open up new ways of viewing the world.
“In the sharing circle at the program’s end, we realized that we had stimulated the kids in creating their own solutions and peacemaking skills. Students reported added confidence and that they could express feelings. Some were amazed at how a picture can speak to you and let out your inner feelings and emotions that are bottled up inside. They said they realized that others are going through what they are going through,” and most poignantly, “that they were not alone. One student said: ‘Never judge someone you don’t know, or judge them at all, because you never know what they are going through.’ ”
As Beth prepares for an upcoming exhibition at Viewpoints Gallery, she is excited by the effects of her great passion: releasing the playful child in adults and igniting the sensitive adult in teens—using art to light the way, one image at a time.❖
Beth’s artwork is regularly exhibited at Viewpoints Gallery in Makawao, Village Gallery in Lāhainā, and Hāna Coast Gallery in Hāna. She is also published by Island Heritage.
Contact artist Beth Marcil: ArtFromTheInsideOut.com
Contact writer Sherry Remez:
Micah Kamohoali‘i is a professional artist who was born and raised on Hawai‘i Island. His family members are descendants of the Pele clan and the shark people of Waipi‘o Valley. He is the Executive Director for The Kamohoali‘i Foundation and Kumu Hula for Hālau Na Kipu‘upu‘u located in Waimea. An award winning Kumu, his hālau is rooted in Hawaiian culture and immersed in the traditions and old practices of the Kamohoali‘i family. He is also a Hawaiian scholar and language teacher who has taught and lectured around the world in such places as Europe, Japan, Mexico, Alaska, Canada, and Polynesia. He celebrates his rich heritage by keeping the traditional methods of creating ancient Hawaiian arts alive in their most authentic form. His ancestors were kapa people and he continues to use these old techniques to create his kapa artwork.
“As a people we should always progress. We should be able to do things better and faster and bigger than our ancestors to show that the family is growing and progressing. It is in this spirit that I made my huge 7-by-11 foot kapa called Kihawahine. My family are kapa people and so I visited my aunty Malia Solomonʻs pieces that hang at the Hualālai Ballroom at the Four Seasons Resort Hualālai and measured how large hers were. They were about 6-by-10 feet, so I decided to make mine bigger by a foot in each direction.” Micah tells me. He goes on to explain that he modeled the design after the kapa used to catch each infant who was born into the family. This kapa, now very worn and over a hundred years old, would be taken out at the birth of each child so everyone in the family was caught on this same fabric.
Kapa—a fabric made by native Hawaiians from the bast fibers of certain species of trees and in shrubs in the order of Rosales and Malvales. It is similar to tapa found elsewhere in Polynesia, however it differs in the methods used for its creation.
“In, say Samoa, they will pound out sheets and then glue them together with pia (an arrowroot paste) and these pieces will overlap creating a larger piece. The Hawaiian method is different in that Hawaiians would smash, fold, and beat out a seamless piece,” Micah explains as he shows a group of volunteers how to make kapa. He takes us step by step through each part of the laborious process.
First the tree is harvested and the bark is scraped off using a ‘opihi shell until white. A shark tooth knife is then used to score and peel off the next layer from the core of the plant.
This layer will then soak for a week or so until it is pliable and no longer stiff [Fig. 1]. It will then be beaten on a lava stone [Fig. 2]. Next it will be beaten on a wooden anvil until it is very thin [Fig. 3]. Another thin layer is added and pounded into the first with the grooved wooden mallet called an i‘e kuku [Fig. 4]. It will then be folded into thirds and beaten again.
The kapa continues to grow as more pieces are pounded into it and folded over… like kneading dough.
Eventually the kapa is the size desired and soft like cotton. The last beating will be done with a i‘e kuku that has a specific design carved into its side and this design will leave a watermark impression in the fabric that can be clearly seen when held up to the light.
Since every family had their own design, it was easy to tell whom the fabric belonged to by looking at this design [Fig. 5]. The fabric could lastly be dyed and stamped with meaningful patterns [Fig. 6].
“The dyes that I use for my artwork are all natural dyes from local plants. I do not use any modern methods to make these pieces; they are all made in the old style,” shares Micah as he discusses the inspiration for a series of kapa paintings he created to represent Hawaiian deities. “I was inspired to use only the plants and things that represent each god to dye each piece because there are certain plants associated with certain gods.
For instance, the kapa for Pele was dyed with pig’s blood and the designs were stamped on with charcoal made from burnt plant ashes mixed with coconut milk.”
The markings signify different things.
“Rain is Lono’s body form and Lono is the god of fertility and agriculture. So these designs that stream downward at diagonal angles represent the rain on the kapa for Lono.
On the kapa for Kū, the god of war, there is the pattern of breadfruit and these spearhead designs to represent schools of fish,” he explained, “And for the goddess Haumea who gave birth to the islands, I split the kapa down the middle to represent the birth canal from which the islands were born. So you can see every part of the kapa is very symbolic.”
Micah continues, “Kapa was used for clothing, for blankets… it was their fabric. So it had to be pounded out every day. Everyday there would be women pounding kapa for their families. And as you’ll notice, the anvils were hollowed out so that they serve duel purpose as a drum for what I call Hawaiian Morse code. As the ladies were pounding they could pound out a specific rhythm to tell the women in the next village that there was going to be a performance or if there was danger, because the pounding could be heard for miles away.”
In March 2010 Micah’s hālau, Na Kipu‘upu‘u, received highly acclaimed honors from the state of Hawai‘i for their hula drama entitled “Mauliauhonua” about the descendants of Waipi‘o Valley. Micah is orchestrating an upcoming big community project with the help of volunteers.
“This project is about bringing the community together in Waimea,” Micah shared. “I saw a segregation between the malihini (newcomers) and the Native Hawaiian people.
So I wrote a grant asking to interweave everyone together because this is not about race. We are all residents of Waimea. We offered classes to celebrate the sacred sites in Waimea, taking groups from one side of Waimea all the way to the other to teach them the history about these places. We had more than 100 at each workshop where we partnered the stories with an art. After hearing the story of kapa, they learned how to make it so that they could be proud to be a part of the story of Waimea. We went to the pu‘u and talked about the battles that took place there between Hawai‘i island and Maui, discussed the strategies of battle and why they battled. Then we made dog tooth shin guards called kupe‘e niho ‘ilio. Each shin guard has around 500 canine teeth lashed together. Warriors would wear these to invoke the ferocious spirit of the dog for their fight.”
From January until March Micah’s hālau will be creating a hula drama that will be performed at the Kahilu theater the week before the Merrie Monarch Festival. “This hula drama is how we are getting the community to present these stories. It begins with the birth of the mountains and then the deities get placed on the mountains, who marry Waimea chiefs and so the people of Waimea are the descendants of these goddesses of the mountains.”
This presentation is going to be accompanied by an art exhibit of Micah’s kapa artwork and of all of the things that the community helped to make. This art exhibit is the only venue currently showcasing Micah’s artwork as he has pulled all of his work from the galleries they were in to show his collection in its entirety for this special event.
The show will use nothing modern. Every costume and prop will be something that was created in the traditional methods by the people of Waimea. “I think this hula drama is going to blow everything out of the water. It will be like using artifacts from the Bishop Museum and watching them come to life, used as they were originally intended. Some of these things have not been created for hundreds of years and so we will really get to experience traveling back in time.”
I was excited to learn that the kapa I helped pound will be a part of one of the dresses worn by a hula dancer in the show. Micah’s hālau is one of the only—if not the only hālau—that performs in kapa made exclusively for each dancer, a manner that hasn’t been done for nearly 200 years. The show is projected to take place at Kahilu Theater Spring 2013. ❖
To reserve tickets: KahiluTheater.org, 808.885.6868
Contact Micah Kamohoali‘i: 808.960.1900
Contact photographer Braylene Jones: 808.896.9967
Contact writer Stephanie Bolton: StephanieBolton.com
Ka’ū-based, artist Edwin Kayton approaches his work in just the same way he lives his life: quietly with humility and respect for humanity, spirituality, culture, and nature. And it’s these very qualities that have endeared him to the people of the Hawaiian Islands since relocating here from Oregon in 1976.
Edwin, better known as Ed, is a champion of the revitalization of island traditions—in great part, he believes, sparked by the ocean voyages of the double-hulled sailing canoes Hōkūle‘a, Mauloa, Hawai‘i Loa and Makali‘i (all precise replicas of these ancient Polynesian sailing crafts). He has created a strong bond of trust with the Hawaiian community, affording him opportunities to attend and document cultural ceremonies and events that have inspired his work, while also serving to visually preserve the history and traditions for future generations.
“You cannot live here and not be affected by the Hawaiian culture. It’s so great that it’s being kept alive and that it’s being invigorated,” Ed says.
Often referred to as a “renaissance man” by gallery owners and critics, Ed has been prolific in the mediums of oil, drawing, and sculpture for more than 30 years.
Best known as a figurative painter, his subjects focus primarily on the Hawaiian personality, European cultures, and the Western genre (think paniolos or cowboys, horses, cows, and bulls that reflect both the history and contemporary lifestyle of Hawai‘i’s upcountry communities).
“The people I portray are individuals I have come to know personally over the years through my interactions with them. Their personal stories play a role in the image that emerges in the final piece,” Ed says.
Portraits of wahine and kāne hula kahiko (ancient) comprise one of the largest segments of his work, occasionally including hula ‘auwana (modern). “I enjoy photographing the spontaneous interaction between hula hālau (dance group) members prior to and just after a performance as much as the dancing itself,” he adds, and this is clearly illustrated in his paintings.
He has most recently added “true fresco” to his repertoire—a medium derived from his annual visits to Italy with his sister and agent, Verna Keoho.
Working from photographs of his subjects is one of his preferred methods. Currently, according to Verna, his online database contains 60,000 photographs— all taken by Ed.
“Ed works only from his own store of personal photographs, all categorized and quite easy to find,” Verna says.
As for his passion for hula, Ed says it is much more than dance. “Hula tells the story of Hawai‘i’s ancient and contemporary life in every sense.” And the extensive training that’s imperative to mastering hula, he says, also offers multiple learning situations: the Hawaiian language, the creation of implements, attire, and activities relative to the hālau.
“I rarely paint contemporary hula. I like kahiko hula, the old-time feeling it invokes. And I often introduce elements that suggest the piece could have been painted 150 years ago or something painted today. I like that ambiguity; it encourages viewers to forget about being concerned with what time period it was created and simply enjoy the image, the feeling they get from it, and the atmosphere of the moment,” he says.
Ed’s deep-rooted appreciation for the art of hula began with his introduction to one of Hawai‘i Island’s most respected kumu hula (teacher) A‘ala Roy Akana when he moved here in 1981.
Members of her hālau permitted Ed to photograph them for portrayals. Immediately following A‘ala’s death, her student, Pua Case, afforded Ed the same courtesy when she formed the award-winning hula hālau Ke‘alaonamaupua.
“Ed has been portraying Pua and her two sisters for more than 30 years now. He also had the opportunity to paint a portrait of Uncle George Na‘ope, who created the concept of the Merrie Monarch Festival,” Verna says.
Pua also introduced Ed to members of Na Koa and Na Kalai Wa‘a, which eventually led to invitations to observe and photograph cultural ceremonies. “The awakening of the adze” protocol held on the high slopes of Mauna Loa in 1993 eventually led to a series of portrayals of Hōkūle‘a, Makali‘i and Mauloa canoes. The voyaging canoes and the ancient mariners who sailed them make up another important category of Ed’s work.
Ed recently published a coffee table book documenting some of his artistic endeavors illustrated by the variety of subjects that have captured his interest over the past several years. A Journey, published in 2012, includes more than 150 paintings and drawings of Hawaiian, Italian, and western themes.
“Ed’s story is actually more about the people in his artwork and the role they have played in his life. His spirit saturates every subject he chooses to portray—often focusing on the lines of age and character rather than a typical approach to ‘beauty’.
Ed, however, is equally at home expressing the physical attractiveness of Hawai‘i’s people,” Verna says.
His artistic journey began in Oregon. “I attended the Museum Art School (now Pacific Northwest School of Art) in Portland, Oregon received the Outstanding Student Award at graduation. At the time you had a choice between taking classes to become an art teacher or classes to be an artist. I had no desire to teach, so chose the latter and was completely immersed in the making of art for five years,” he recounts.
His background includes drafting, graphics, and woodworking in addition to the fine arts. Following several years of work as an industrial illustrator in Oregon, he moved to Honolulu, eventually managing the graphic arts department at Trade Publishing.
“In 1981, I made a personal commitment to become a full-time artist as I moved to Hawai‘i Island. I’ve been painting, drawing, and sculpting ever since,” he says.
Ed especially appreciates the work of 17th century artist, Rembrandt and his amazing use of chiaroscuro, the strong contrast between light and shade to create atmosphere and achieve a sense of volume in modeling three-dimensional sculptural objects, including the human body.
Another Kayton signature includes combining the bright color relationships of Impressionist paintings with the realistic forms found in Classical paintings that alter shapes, values, and colors to define balance, movement, and mood.
Ed concludes, “Every artist has his or her own beliefs about spirituality and human nature and these perspectives come through in their art. As skills develop, these perspectives become more and more clear.
This isn’t something that’s taught, rather it is something that simply comes through as a natural part of expressing yourself as an artist.” He continues adding, “I love humanity, and to me humanity and spirituality are one, they are combined.” ❖
Ed teaches occasional classes in oil painting in Kailua-Kona, a few select cities on the mainland, as well as Italy. His instruction is as exacting as his personal portrayals, covering all aspects of oil painting, emphasizing composition, and technique.
Purchase Ed’s artwork: Lavender Moon Gallery (Kainaliu), Wishard Gallery (Waimea and Waikoloa), Colette’s Custom Framing (Kailua- Kona), Harbor Gallery (Kawaihae), Volcano Art Center (Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park)
Edʻs artwork: kayton-art.com
For classes information contact Verna:
Contact writer Margaret Kearns:
“Koa is Hawai‘i. It provides that sense of place, that connection to the ‘āina (land) that is uniquely Hawai‘i. With a property known as chatoyancy (shatoy- an-cee)—the ability to shimmer like a cat’s-eye gemstone—figured or curly koa wood is like no other. From deep, dark browns, to pale, golden blonds, koa produces a remarkable range of color. Its figure is just as impressive, from plain to fiddleback with every variation in between.
Although not classified as “rare” by scientists, koa naturally occurs only on the larger Hawaiian Islands and nowhere else on earth. It evolved here, in the middle of the Pacific, some 2,400 miles from the closest land mass. Koa is the largest and second most common native tree in Hawai‘i, though commercially viable koa forests occur only on the Big Island of Hawai‘i and Maui between 2,500 and 7,000 feet in elevation.
Currently, koa wood is predominately cut from dead,fallen, and dying trees on private land that is zoned for agricultural use. Koa sawyers today do both the salvage logging and milling operations, and a couple of their stories are shared in these pages. Much skill, equipment, and time are required to salvage what nature has left behind. Koa has strict protection—anyone who cuts a live tree on land zoned for conservation is subject to prosecution. Private landowners who grow koa and are zoned for agriculture can harvest their live trees. Several are working to do so in a sustainable way.
Koa has unique properties. It’s genetically predisposed to have curly or figured wood, yet the majority of the wood is plain grained. It is also very susceptible to injury by machinery and grazing animals and lacks the ability to “heal.” This makes more sense when you consider that this amazing tree originated in these islands before human contact. Without predatory animals, koa had no need for a natural defense mechanism.”
The collectors’ Edition of Contemporary Hawai‘i Woodworkers: the Wood, the Art, the Aloha is available. These special books were lovingly shipped to four locations on three islands to be autographed by 35 award-winning woodworkers and both authors. Each is numbered, has a gold seal, and comes complete with a slip case for $199. Purchase yours at Basically Books in Hilo, Cliff Johns Gallery in Holualoa, Dan DeLuz Woods in Mountain View, Dunn Gallery in Kapa‘au, Martin & MacArthur in Waikoloa, Wishard Gallery in Waimea, and ContemporaryHawaiiWoodworkers.com
Photos by Doug Edens: EdensImages.com
When traveling up the Hamākuā coast I often I often turn makai (towards the ocean) off the main highway, just seven miles north of Hilo, in favor of the old Māmalahoa’s four-mile scenic route. Each time I venture down the cracked and winding road in anticipation of the lush, botanic canopies and collapsed Onomea Arch, I pass the same Buddhist Hongwanji and the same mountain-fed stream that flows below the same mossy wooden bridge. I glance to my left at the same patch of thick, tenacious bamboo, and then to my right at the same weathered, hill-top cemetery. Soon after, I pass the same antique art gallery with the same bright lavender lettering ‘Toulouce’ with the same orange and white calico cat painted on the side. Then I tell myself the same old thing, “You know, you really should check out that place some day.”
The gallery’s exterior is so vibrant, so full of charm and character, so perfectly out of place, and so hard to pass by unnoticed, and somehow I had always done just that—passed it by. So the last time I took the road less traveled, I pulled over, and stopped in to see what treasures and stories were held within the walls of this seemingly forgotten, if not colorful, gallery.
Upon entering, I was greeted by an elegantly attired woman with lively hazel eyes and wispy, grayish-blonde hair. Meet Diane Renchler—the owner of the Toulouce Gallery. She is graceful, sweet, and unbeknownst to me at the time, open and willing to unabashedly share herself with me.
She began by recounting one of her earliest memories—her four-year-old self sitting on the cool kitchen floor of a friend’s apartment while visiting her grandmother. “My friend’s mom put some newspapers down on the tiles and placed a set of water color paints in front of me. I remember thinking it was the most exciting thing I had ever seen,” she smiles, “And I still do.”
Growing up in Nevada, Diane received a Fine Arts Scholarship and eventually earned her Master’s Degree in Expressive Arts at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She dabbled in the mediums of acrylic, oil, printmaking, glass, and sculpture.
At twenty-one, Diane became a flight attendant, where she traveled to far-off destinations including Japan, South America, Israel, Europe, and Australia, and eventually bringing American troops into Vietnam during the war. The one grounding constant in her then moving life were her watercolor paints, “I carried my kit with me everywhere. They dried quickly and were so easy to travel with,” she says.
One particular flight touched down in Waikīkī, where she found solace from the gloomier and more lurid Vietnam conditions by painting the calming, tropical backdrops. Delving artistically, emotionally, and even physically into the soothing Pacific waters, she promised herself she would someday return.
Between that ‘someday’ and her current vocation and milieu, if you will, she has lived multiple lives. From owning a stained glass gallery in Aspen, Colorado where the hedonistic lifestyle of the 1970s eventually wore thin, to receiving life-threatening toxic poisoning from working with stained and leaded glass. At another daunting point along her path, her sole pleasure was found in painting the portraits of girls, both young and old, while living at a women’s shelter in the slums of Harlem, New York. Spiraling health problems ultimately caused her to take a step back, and then a big step within—a ‘bout of depression turned inner journey’ as she calls it.
“After a few really shaking experiences, even after going back to arts school, I realized that the knowledge of how to create my art was within me all along. I was looking outside myself for praise, recognition, and guidance from others, instead of looking within.”
The fear of failure had been guiding her aimlessly for so long that when she suddenly stopped long enough to reflect, she realized just how clear her own answers actually were. What it took was getting back to the basics: laying out some newspaper, opening a set of watercolor paints, and finding the courage to dive in and begin.
In 1995, Diane sold her house along with all of her belongings and hopped a flight across the Pacific with the destination Hawai‘i Island. Once on Hawaiian soil, she invested in an aquamarine Volkswagon van. “I knew that if I bought a plot of land I would dedicate myself to maintaining it instead of painting everything I had,” she says. That VW van, now indefinitely parked in her driveway, covered with moss and memories of a past life, became her home for her first four years on-island.
“Unemployed was sometimes a shaky place, yet it allowed me the time to travel the perimeter of the island countless times. I painted nearly every setting Hawai‘i Island has to offer,” she says. Once her van was full of paintings, she’d store them under friend’s houses across the island—with hopes of someday reclaiming them.
She eventually began selling her art at the Hilo and Pāhoa farmers’ markets, where she accumulated a small fan base.
One day, a woman who, over time, had bought several of her paintings peered into Diane’s van and asked where she was living.
“I didn’t know what to say—I didn’t even know where I was going to park my van that night!” she laughs. The woman, inspired by the nomadic artist, offered a place in Onomea for Diane to more permanently set up camp. “I had driven my Volkswagon by this spot many times before. I think I even camped out here one night.”
That property is now Diane’s home, art gallery, and evermaturing Eden of papaya, avocado, rolenia, coconut, banana, mango, pineapple, and taro patches, “This building was abandoned and run down, and the land was completely overgrown. It was awesomely scary at first. It took over a year of non-stop renovations,” she says, “But this was the exact space I had envisioned for myself.”
The Toulouce Gallery is named after her cat (and long-time VW companion). And her cat, well, he was named after the renowned French Impressionist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
“It wasn’t until after I had finished painting the word ‘Toulouce’ on the outside of the gallery that I realized I had misspelled the artist’s name,” she laughs. Diane thought it cheeky and so she left it. The original blooper still stands today, merely adding to the gallery’s unique character.
The old, wooden plantation home is classy and cozy with an undeniably French feel. It features more than 20 local artists whose works include: painted gourds, clay sculptures, photography, jewelry, blown glass, essential oils, and vintage clothing.
Since those distant VW days, Diane is now an award-winning painter whose art has been shown at the Hilton Waikoloa Gallery, the Woodshop Gallery in Honomū, Waipio Valley Art works, Volcano Art Center, Dream’s of Paradise Gallery in Hilo, Trudy’s International Art in Kailua-Kona, and was recently featured as an artist at the Plein Air Paintures of Hawai‘i (PAPOH), a juried show in Kailua-Kona.
Playing with the element of water, above all, brings the most balance to her life, as she paints with it, and plays in it nearly every morning. “I think I’ve swam off nearly every coastline of this island. It’s probably the real reason I moved here.
I used to swim in the 55-degree Boston Bay, so this is much nicer,” she laughs. “I think I’m addicted to water; it makes me high.”
Just as she’s about to close the gallery for the day, a couple visiting from Japan wander in. Their camera had run out of batteries just before snapping a shot of ‘Akaka Falls, “Do you have any pictures of waterfalls,” the woman asked, desperate for a specific memento of the island. “Yes, a few actually,” Diane says, flipping through a basket of matted prints, “Here you go. This is my favorite one of ‘Akaka. I set up my easel and painted it just a few years ago.” The woman smiles, she seems relieved.
My eyes wander around at the brightly colored pastel walls and focus on Diane’s many works, some of which include: “Old Onomea Road,” “Hapuna,” “Sunrise at Mauna Kea,” “Hāmākua Coastline,” “Opihikao,” “Pohoiki,” and “Wahine at Rainbow Falls.” I smile, knowing the paintings adorning the Toulouce Gallery walls quite literally tell the story of one woman’s audacity to take the plunge and trust in the pursuit of her childhood passion. ❖
Contact artist Diane Renchler: DianeRenchler-ArtGallery.com, 808.936.0915
At first glance, you wonder, are her eyes open or closed? Is she smiling or pensive? Is it lava flow or ocean? That is the mystery of MaryAnn Hylton’s casting of “Pele Dreaming.”
The image of Pele was first designed by the late Herb Kawainui Kāne, a beloved Hawaiian artist, historian, and author with special interest in Hawai‘i and the South Pacific. MaryAnn Hylton, a Kailua-Kona artist, has been producing works of art for 60 years.
Herb and MaryAnn collaborated to bring Pele forward as the Goddess who breathes grace, compassion, and love of the ‘āina (land)—the true guardian of Hawai‘i Island.
In 1989, MaryAnn and her husband Brock were asked to come to the islands to assist Herb in the creation of multiple sculptural works for the Grand Wailea, Maui—a project that required many months of close collaboration and an opportunity to discover symbiotic talents. Their personal friendship and professional relationship was fortified by a mutual passion for sculpture and a sensitivity and respect for the spirits of the islands. MaryAnn applied her technical knowledge and unyielding dedication to meticulous craftsmanship and Herb, his anthropological knowledge of the Hawaiian culture and extraordinary skills as a master sculptor.
In creating the multiple sculptures, attention to detail was extremely important, as MaryAnn thumb printed the representation of each hulu or feather on the statue of King Kamehameha I while also making wax casts to represent the dogs’ teeth that were worn around the calves of the ancient warriors. MaryAnn was tasked to create things that she had not seen before, like the malo, draped fabric as a loincloth, that adorned the male figures. She remembered her mother’s words, “Nothing you learn is ever wasted.” And there it was, the years of MaryAnn folding linen and fabric for her mother, came forward to this moment as she formed the impression of the malo—with perfect billows and folds—she knew exactly what to do.
In the five months it took to create the 18 sculptures, there was a day when Herb Kāne walked into the studio with rolled up drawing paper and presented his next creation. Herb had been looking for a live model to bring Pele to life and in the long time of searching, no one had surfaced. In his mind’s eye, Herb saw his model, his Pele, and he sketched her into what we now know as one of his most popular art pieces, “Pele Dreaming.”
As MaryAnn and Herb studied the sketch, they began massing clay on a special table Herb had made to hold the weight of the mold. Creating, sculpting, hands deep in clay, bringing to life the ‘other woman,’ the One, Pele-honua-mea, Pele of the Sacred Land. At one point, Herb, a quiet man, stepped back, and MaryAnn could sense he was looking for something more. She watched as he held a mound of clay and walked off into the distance at Hōnaunau, deep into the sacredness of the ‘āina.
When Herb returned, he brought a clay impression of the lava flow, with just the right depth and curvature; this was Pele’s hair. The sweeping richness of lava-like waves cascaded down and around Pele’s body, encircling her in the black opulence representative of her cherished island.
Their collaboration continued, now moving in the direction of Pele’s face. From the coarse indentations of the hair, to the silken, smooth aspect of delicate Pele. The most beautiful face emerged. It was the softer side of Pele, the one who holds the compassion and love, the insightful beauty and guardian of Hawai‘i Island. Something extraordinary was happening, another transformation was being shown to the artists, the ones chosen to bring Pele into three-dimensional form. Herb stepped back and quietly shook his head; what was it? What was being asked of him? And the message came, quickly and with clarity, it was her eyes, Pele’s eyes, they needed to be closed. In this moment, a moment of intuitive reflection, there was a birth. The revelation was a new Pele, pensive and peaceful: a contemplative goddess, softly lowering her top lid to her bottom lid, beckoning viewers to come inside her welcoming energy.
MaryAnn continued to sculpt and create the form of “Pele Dreaming,” bringing forth the fiery flames and the Goddess’ crown of lehua blossoms—the flower of Hawai‘i Island and most associated with Pele. MaryAnn noted that Herb was a taskmaster for details. He would give MaryAnn all the intricate work to recreate his vision, which was now their combined creation. In molding Pele’s hand into just the right position and angle to hold the Earth’s flame, MaryAnn became the model for that piece of the relief. Ever so graceful and still, MaryAnn was now an extension of this figure.
Pele was near completion and as MaryAnn commented, “it seemed like magic when it was finished. Everything flowed as if time stood still for all of this work to be done.” Through all the talk stories, the chicken-skin moments, the silence and deliberation, Pele seemed to guide Herb and MaryAnn into bringing Pele’s new form to life.
In our time together, MaryAnn unveiled a mold of the relief, an empty vessel awaiting the contents of its structure. A bluegreen imprint, lying prone on the work table, a life-sized portrait of the Goddess’ face looked back at us. Peering into the shape, hovering ever so carefully above her, one could get lost in the mystery of Pele. Here she was, presenting herself as if to say, “know me from the inside out.” Her closed eyes appeared open in this negative relief form, releasing a communication that she sees all, whether internal or external, her power is present and her love for her land and people is unconditional.
While there is one master mold, the one that held the energy of this experience, Herb gave MaryAnn the rights to make additional molds and produce MaryAnn, 81-years-young, remembers her first ‘ah-ha’ moment of loving art. As a small girl, four years of age, living in Washington D.C., MaryAnn’s mother brought her to her aunt’s house and they went for a visit to the next door neighbors. It was there where MaryAnn was surrounded with child-sized easels, painting tables, sandboxes, and all things this little girl could imagine. MaryAnn instantly played and created, dreaming up all possibilities her mind’s eye envisioned. Not knowing there was such a thing as an ‘artist,’ in that day’s playtime, MaryAnn knew this is what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. In following her dream, through childhood and young adulthood, MaryAnn found art was her way of expressing herself, her story, and connection with nature. Her work included many art forms: painting, collages, weavings, sand casting, and sculptures. Settling in Maryland with her husband and three children, MaryAnn noticed the schools were not teaching the arts in the way she had experienced them. The schools were teaching technique, however not the soul of the work. MaryAnn long believed that every person carries creativity within them. She desired to make the opportunity of creative expression available to her community and with that, MaryAnn opened an art school.
Her first students ranged from eight to 80 years of age, and as she taught them, they blossomed like a field of flowers, each revealing their own unique style and expression. The school grew to include five teachers and had quite a range of art media instruction. After five years, MaryAnn was recruited to lead touring art exhibits and workshops around the country. She was commissioned to do art projects along the way, and one in particular led her to San Diego which started her journey into sand casting and sculpting.
MaryAnn’s intuitive nature taps into the very essence of Pele, as if chosen to bring all the dimensions of Pele forward. When MaryAnn began to create art in Hawai‘i, she realized this was a culmination of all her beliefs. As MaryAnn’s turquoise blue eyes deepen with conscious understanding, she says, “the power of creativity is in all of us, we are born with this power and it is the essence of who we are.” When the artist elder speaks these words, one can only step back and observe, are these words of Pele or MaryAnn? Perhaps it is the message of both women, strong and willful, creative and passionate, sensitive and compassionate.
Herb Kāne often said, “Every brushstroke and every word has brought and will forever bring wisdom, beauty, inspiration, and understanding.” ❖
Contact artist MaryAnn Hylton: PeleHawaii.com
Contact photographer George R. Young:
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