Monday, August 30, 2010

Our Fifth Anniversary Bash this Friday

Hard to believe we've been on Waianuenue Avenue as long as we have. It's a tiny gallery on a very noisy street with ambulances screaming up and down on their way to the hospital up above Rainbow Falls (Waianuenue = water of the rainbow, get it??). But the very things that keep us small and humble are also the strengths that have allowed us to stay open while businesses have come and gone throughout downtown Hilo. We are more or less a co-operative group where everyone showing on the walls shares time working at the gallery. So if you walk in you are going to meet a creative spirit no matter what day it is. Now we are even open on Saturdays, thanks to the generous willingness of Deborah Beaver, who uses the time to actually paint in the shop. We are also very excited about the participation of our new friend and ally Everett Charters, who is a technogeek, very intelligent, and with great ideas on how to improve our website.

Members of the A J Gallery will be celebrating our 5th anniversary with a special opening this Friday, September 3, from 5 to 7 PM. Come join us for music and pupus!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kaua'i No Ka Oi

I had a mission to visit a new client on her property just across from Limahuli Gardens on the far North coast of Kaua'i. She was inspired by my paintings in Mary's book "Hawai'i A Sense of Place" and by my big lobby painting at the St. Regis Hotel in Princeville, to commission a couple of figurative paintings for her house which is still in the early stages of construction. When it's finished the house will have an incredible view up into the Limahuli Valley with its green spires and legend-haunted stones. Constance herself is a remarkable individual with a strong sense of connection to the land and a desire to bring beauty and improvement to the world around her.

Everett and I visited my high school friend Helen Cox and her husband John in Kalaheo, south Kaua'i, and walked their two dogs in the golden afternoon light. What a beautiful island Kaua'i is. Then after a night with Constance on the north shore we checked into the Princeville St. Regis for several days of pre-birthday celebration. Very glamorous, very nice location, but super expensive for every little detail. The best part was Everett gravitating toward a Wahine Kupuna (elder woman) sitting in the lobby one morning, "talking story" about life and art on the island. Auntie Dora, known to her family as "Puna", brought artifacts, shells, Hawaiian quilting projects (Everett's favorite) and lots of stories to share.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New (Old) Card Designs

Anyone who knows me has seen that lately I've been obsessed with Hawaiian kapa (tapa, or barkcloth) stamp designs. This is a holdover from some fruitful collaborations with Mary Philpotts and her gang over the last several years. But it's also just an increasing appreciation for how creatively the kanaka maoli (native people) used their resources and combined their design motifs. I have a big box of linoleum blocks that emulate the designs, although not at the original sizes which were scaled to the limitations of carved bamboo ('ohe kapala) and the cut stems of plants.

I keep searching for a synthesis of my regular painting style with the graphic brilliance of old Hawai'i nei. I've collaged printed paper into paintings and on their borders. Tuko inspired me with her border for Nikko's memorial photo portrait (see August 3), with its colorful collage of my tapa print origami papers.

Now I've been unearthing old paintings of mine and making cards and prints using kapa-motif borders. This gives a nostalgic effect that is appropriate to the atmosphere of the Puna of a decade or two ago, when the road was still a sleepy one-lane byway paved in a motley patchwork of red and grey cinder. These cards are printed on my home Epson photo r1900 and are now available at the gallery which, astonishingly, will be celebrating its 5th anniversary with a party on the first Friday of September.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Lava at Fox's Landing

Everett called and said he'd heard that the lava flow over the coast at Fox's Landing is now the most spectacular it's been in 20 years. So we decided to hike out yesterday afternoon with some of Nikko's ashes to deposit into the flowing lava as he had requested. Tuko and Craig, Neil and Chuck joined us in the late afternoon for the two and a half mile hike out to what used to be the beach out beyond Kalapana. Fox's landing was always a deliriously beautiful oasis in the miles of rugged coastline, but now it is a steaming mass of black lava with burnt palm trees and hau thicket laying over it. The slopes behind the beach are lushly forested in palm trees, but they have been singed at the bases by brush fires.

The active lava flows were out beyond where we could easily or safely get to, so we decided not to risk our necks to place the ashes there. Instead we returned in the twilight to where the Hawaiian families have planted hundreds of tiny palm trees in the black rock and sand on the new beach at Kaimu. There we had a group hug after Everett gently placed ashes under several lucky palm keiki.

The Keli'iho'omalu family was hosting a huge luau for a couple of high school graduates, one of which is an amazingly handsome young man named Ikaika, whom I've watched growing up from when he was a kid in my studio art classes, the son of our Hawaiian language teacher Lei Ilae. So we heaped plates with raw crab, poke, opihi, squid luau, lomi salmon, kalua pig, and other delicacies, and joined the merry party which was the biggest gathering of people I've ever seen other than perhaps our Punahou High School reunion luaus. Those Kalapana families really know how to party.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Nikko Marott, 1948-2010

Auwe, our dear friend Nikko passed away on Wednesday, July 28. He had been in Hilo Medical Center for three weeks, which was a difficult time for him and those of us watching over him, made tolerable only by the very kindhearted nursing staff at the hospital. Prostate cancer is usually fairly minor, but because N had had cancer previously, it was more aggressive in his body. Nikko could be a grouchy curmudgeon on occasion but this was just a small aspect of a truly radiant and beautiful soul. He reached out in friendship to the Hawaiian community and in his last days was rewarded by many visitors chanting, blessing, dancing, and singing to him as he lay in his room at HMC.

Nikko's father Jim, his brother and sister-in-law Jerry and Debby, came from California to be with him along with his close friends Everett Charters and Pamela Pierron. The room was filled with love and tender caring.

Nikko's last philanthropic gesture was to create his "1000 Cranes Project" to benefit the Hospice of Hilo. Most of the strands of origami birds, stamped with tapa motifs and folded by Nikko and friends, have been spoken for. But some will still be available at the gallery, with a suggested donation of $30 to the Hospice. They are really beautiful, and a touching reminder of Nikko and real evidence of his handwork.

We held a pa'ina (party) for Nikko at David Ellis' house in the front of Puna Palisades, on Saturday July 31. Puna Keli'iho'omalu and Kawika provided wonderful Hawaiian music. Kids from the Kukulu Kumuhana program and Uncle Robert Keli'ihoomalu's extended family presented some dances and then frolicked in the pool, and kumu Frank Kawaikapu Hewitt did a beautiful blessing over our potluck feast. Later we scattered some ashes down at the point overlooking Kehena Beach, in the soft twilight, as Willy Cole chanted in praise of our home on Ka Moku o Keawe, the Big Island.

Mau ke aloha ia 'oe, beloved friend and brother!