Keaʻau is at the end of the road past Mākaha as it turns right and continues towards ʻOhikilolo and onward. When you start to spend time on the West side, you begin to notice certain areas hold more or less light, more or less rain, more or less wind. It isnʻt just all one barren desert. We had a studio for a season as our retreat, to hideaway and relax in just the company of husband and wife. The more I learn about ancient stories of the wahipana here, I see how they are tied to the cosmic creative force. Male-female, sky reaching down to touch mountain, Mountaintop and valley. The landscapes of this area of the island is full of this duality and harmony in grand display. Up-down, out-in, hard craggy aʻa lava and floating island clouds.
My watercolors start on site. I have to feel the essence of the space before an image or impression comes forth. Sometimes it happens while I am there, sometimes it is more of a feeling or even sensation of warmth, light, darkness or chill. I paint until I reach that feeling or image I received and the painting says ʻIʻm hereʻ. It is a moment of recognition. I donʻt always understand what Iʻve painted or why, especially with this project, it was a deliberate act of listening with humility and painting with intuition.
There are many techniques to create textures in watercolors, and one of them is salt. I felt salt was an important part of this series and initially started out with alae or red rock salt, feeling it was important to use Hawaiian salt. During the project, other salt came to me, from Kauʻai, from the Big Island, and, from Keaʻau itself. I gathered the salt disks from the shore at different times and seasons since 2019, and they are in the pieces you see in this series. They are impregnated with the salt from these wahipana and it somehow felt right.
I know some think of Keaʻau today as just a dumping ground for ʻopala and a pilau place you hurry past on your way to where you are going to. Keaʻau to me is a place you approach, arrive, maybe rest a moment before you make a decision and then get on with it. When Iʻve been there, the most beautiful times are in the late afternoon or evenings, which is what I tried to capture. Itʻs character of hidden beauty and promise is there.
Donʻt miss seeing Janʻs photos too, he has really captured the marks of past footprints upon this site. Quarry marks from harvesting the cornerstones for Kawaihaʻo Church in Honolulu, petroglyphs from times before that. I think his photographs capture the passage of time intersecting with the daily lives of people at work in their community.