Monday, February 13, 2017

About the Artwork at the Ho'olehua Airport on Molokai

     The paintings at the Ho’olehua Airport represent the wild places, flora and fauna on this incredible, yet fragile island.  

     They are the result of years spent hiking the remote valleys, misty mountains and rugged coastlines. I’ve become more adept at slow walking, a benefit of age, but the Kalaupapa trail will literally take your breath away. 
     Molokai does not readily share her majesty. Few roads insure that wild places remain mysterious and undisturbed. Swimming ashore from a boat or permission to cross private land may be required. Locked gates and vague information help keep Molokai’s secrets.

     I have climbed to the top of the Kalaupapa lighthouse, boulder hopped to the back of Wailau Valley and walked from Ono Alii Park to the lookout on Kamakou. I have been covered with red mud countless times from being caught in the rain. Many generous souls have lead the way and I have also learned when it is best to quietly walk away. Climbing on the cliffs of Mokio in a strong wind far above the crashing waves, the explosive sound of whales spouting nearby and camping on the beach
are wonderful memories.  It takes patience to appreciate the magic of this island. I sat motionless until shy monk seals became comfortable with my presence, but on Molokai there is that kind of time.  

     Most often I paint from photographs in the studio. The Executive Director of the Molokai Land Trust, conservationist and native flora expert Butch Haase, collaborated on recent paintings. His expertise and several of his photographs insure the accuracy of the rare plants in the paintings. Many are on preserved land that is being restored by the trust with a small army of volunteers. I paint with a deep appreciation for the beauty of Molokai and I loan the paintings to the airport to support conservation. The artwork eventually acquires a patina of red dust, gecko leavings and bug carcasses, but the paintings were created to be shared even as hiding places for local fauna. 

Many thanks to Moki for looking after them:

The names of places on Molokai that are preserved for future generations are shown above the paintings. Pelekunu, Kawaikapu, Mo’omomi, Mokio, Kamakou, Kalaupapa, Papohaku. Kapuaiwa, Halawa, Palaau, Kiowea, Wailau and more.

Pelekunu Valley from the end of the boardwalk trail in Kamakou Nature Preserve. Both remarkable, remote tracts of land are protected by the Nature Conservancy. I took the two photographs that I used to paint from at the same time, although I did the paintings five years apart without realizing that they went together. One shows an Apapane up close, the other a flock of the rare native birds in flight. A small example of the magic that happens on Molokai :)
Bill, Mickey, Moki and I at the airport. Thank you so much for your help and support! Photographs of the paintings are encouraged. Lower right are edge-tailed Shearwater chicks in the Mo'omomi dunes. Through diligent conservation efforts the numbers of nesting pairs are increasing yearly.
Mo'oula Falls in Halawa Valley, Auntie Gertrude's Beach House in Kalaupapa and Ka Hula Piko Prayer Circle at Papokau Beach Park

Leaping Pacific dolphins at Mo'omomi & a first year Monk seal near La'au Point

Mokio Rainbow, from a photograph by Butch Haase

'Ena'ena on the Mo'omomi dunes (courtesy the Molokai Land Trust)
Ohelo, a tiny flower in the rain forest

Rain Forest Tapestry  The highest point on Molokai is Kamakou, a misty bog with such a tangle of plants that a narrow boardwalk must be maintained to make it accessible. Of 249 species of plants in the unique, swampy environment 219 grow nowhere else on earth.

The first paintings of animals for the airport showed the creatures life-sized. It was meant to be an educational component for people who do not have the chance to see them up close. I wanted to include a full size whale, but would have had to paint it on the runway as space is limited. Understandably I could not get permission. My friend Paddy asked me to take a pile of wood to the dump and I didn't want to throw it away so the life-sized tail resulted. Molokai Fish and Dive gave the sculpture a home. I took the photograph to get the markings accurate while out on their whale watch boat so it was a perfect fit. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

About The Buddha Project 100

     We began The Buddha Project 100 in 2012. Our collaboration came about gradually when Arthur Deak asked if I would show him painting techniques he particularly wanted to learn. We painted on the same canvas to more easily see what each other was doing. We finished and started another as we work well together. After a few more paintings were completed I suggested we do 100 since I was amazed by what we could accomplish together. Two pairs of critical eyes, our combined life experiences and varied skill sets give us the ability to see more critically. Quickly we moved to larger canvases and kept going. 

     Learning new techniques and experimenting with styles and mediums is part of the project. We begin with photographs that we take in quiet places such as museums, gardens and the natural world, and search our photo files looking for images to use as a starting point. Some we manipulate on the computer, others transform as we work on them. So far we have completed twenty seven pieces. 


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Lovely Bahamas

      Imagine a warm, tolerant country where people enjoy strangers. I signed up to crew on a sailboat to experience the beautiful, clear ocean that photographs of the area promised. I knew nothing about Bahamian people, although the beauty of travel is the unexpected. Experiencing light bouncing off a turquoise sea under cobalt skies with towering white clouds and a pristine beach on the horizon swelled my heart, although it wasn’t until I stepped off the boat that the real magic began. 

       The first taste of Bahamian acceptance came from customs officials on the remote island where we checked into the country. We had been slammed on the crossing from Florida by an unexpected storm. We were three strangers sailing together for a few months after finding each other through a crew list ad that the captain of the boat had placed online. Tired and sweaty we marched into the office to fill out paper work.   

    Customs and immigration each had their own desk. Forms were handed out and questions asked about what we did to make a living. The officers also wanted to know who we were to each other. Three unrelated people who had met through an internet ad do not make the most reliable entrants into a country. We were mistakenly assumed to be husband and wife with a teenage daughter, but our passports told another story.   Announcing that we were “just friends” raised joint eyebrows across the desks. Our assumed daughter, a European girl in her early 20’s, did not look up from her phone. She answered questions tersely with a single word clearly annoyed that her texting was being interrupted. Her butt and cleavage hugging tiny shorts and t-shirt declared her most curvy features, giving the men’s eyes something to peruse as the captain filled out pages of questions about the boat and our intentions in the country. 

      What an odd group we were. I wondered what they could possibly be thinking. I’m not a small woman, the captain was half my size and the girl resembled neither of us. We looked like kidnappers in the sex trade industry. The captain hedged his answers and left many of the questions on the form blank. At that point U.S. officials would have marched us into individual rooms to extract our real stories, criminal activity assumed.
     The Bahamas have their sha­­re of money laundering and drug running. The officers asked questions then glanced at each other. One man took our passports into another room to make a phone call. I watched him through the open door. He looked concerned. The other well-pressed man in uniform stayed at his desk with our peeved captain’s incomplete form on his desk, a large hand weighing it down. Our only common bond was the desire to travel by sea. While walking to customs and immigration I had been instructed by the captain not to say anything, to let him do the talking. That made me wonder what he was hiding. Blindly trusting strangers isn’t always smart, but I do it anyway because sometimes things work out just fine.
     When the officials asked the captain questions he held his hand to his ear as if he couldn’t understand. It turned out that his hearing aid didn’t pick up the lovely, soft-spoken Bahamian voices, but I didn’t know that at the time. He looked cagey. Our non-daughter moved her phone closer to her face to see it with her dark sun glasses on and turned her back to everyone. The captain made a disparaging remark about the length of the forms, complaining because he had not been required to fill them out in the past. He crossed his arms and smoldered. The other official returned. He sat down and put his hand on top of our pile of passports. That left me face to face with two big guys who had our fate under their palms and two people I barely knew rudely ignoring them. For me that is a recipe for becoming the sweatiest, most chatty person in any room. The silence made my tongue hurt.
      On the wall behind the desk a large hand-painted relief map of the island showed our location. I asked where to buy carburetor cleaner, casually mentioning that the engine on the boat had been sputtering. I did not disclose that during the storm it had sucked in seawater and died with spark arresting finality. I assumed they might not want people in their country who may need to be rescued. Minimally fixing it required a spare spark plug and the tool to change it. Sadly we had neither, but finding a mechanic seemed prudent even if I was supposed to keep quiet. 

     Both men smiled. With surprising hospitality they told us about the mechanic on the island giving names and details. They calculated how many minutes it would take to walk to town. It was then I realized we had landed somewhere quite different. Our passports were stamped, handed back and the forms shoved in a pile on the side of the desk while wishing us the best for our time in the islands. Their concern surprised me, as well as how quickly they switched gears from questioning to helping us. Obviously our passports checked out and luckily bad manners on our side had not ruffled Bahamian feathers.   

     An injured knee cut my sailing trip short. I left the boat with the clear water over the banks happily etched in memory. Every friendly exchange with Bahamians convinced me to stay longer. In Nassau I found a room in an old hotel overlooking Junkanoo Beach. Wildly entertaining is a place where people go to see and be seen. Cruise ship patrons showed up in droves then trundled back to their respective staterooms satiated and sunburned. 
     After the daily tourist exodus Bahamians reclaimed their beach. The men’s volley ball team practiced, swim meets ensued and kids flipped off the wharf over the “no diving” sign with unrestrained joy. Mothers and fathers floated with their babies in the gentle surf. After dark couples walking hand in hand disappeared into dark shadows. The daily rhythm of the beach repeated beginning each morning with the migration of tourists. They hunkered under umbrellas sipping beer, bellied up to open beach bars to pound shots, lined up for Zumba, rented beach chairs and generally let it all hang out. At night the toys and furniture were put away and the beach returned to the residents.

     There did not seem to be any animosity over this arrangement. Bahamians made money midday when the blazing beach was least hospitable then enjoyed the cooling breeze of late afternoon free of intruders. A few expats and people like me who had not arrived on cruise ships wandered around or swam alone unnoticed.

       At The Daily Grind Internet CafĂ© across from the beach good food was served with a smile. Teddy (the owner) and his employees greeted guests with genuine big-hearted warmth. I enjoyed conversations at the coffee shop. A former school teacher now cab driver, the maintenance man, people who worked the beach scene and of course the owner who is also an artist. 
    I rarely walk the same way twice and never remember what pocket I shove things in. Time in the Bahamas altered my loner habits. The Daily Grind staff made me welcome as a regular, a first for someone who moves around often enough to be taken for a fugitive.

     On the street both men and women greeted passersby with, “Hello beautiful”. Lost downtown I pulled an abrupt about face and crashed into a woman on the sidewalk. She accepted my apology with one of those big Bahamian smiles and said, “No problem, where are you trying to go?” then showed me the way. And with one hand on my arm and a wink she said, “Hon, we’re used to tourists, enjoy your day”. Exceptional kindness simply rocked my world.
     My last days in The Bahamas I asked if I could photograph the people I met to remember the joy a smile brings. Remarkably nobody refused.