In October 2012, I travelled to Maui for an internship with the Hui No'eau Art Center. The resulting collaborative mural took its cues from months of phone conversations with a wide cross section of the Maui Community.
These discussions lent insight into the island’s recent history, the struggles to preserve cultural practices, family, and the environment on an ever developing island mostly seen as a major tourist destination.
Once the project found a home in Wailuku, and upon my arrival, the design and the story evolved. I continued the conversations in person with residents, enviromentalists, kumus, and scholars. and began my own personal exploration. Photo: Ashley Takitani
The Hui held a "Meet the Artist" event on my second day. Artists and Wailuku residents came to give their insight into my design, while suggesting a shift in focus to make the work more relevant for the town. Photo: Lana Coryell
The design as a result reflected more about Wailuku, the history of the town, and the importance of water, taro and the Na Wai ‘eha (Four Rivers) in the West Maui Mountains.
The mural is an anachronism, featuring a pre contact Iao Valley and its surroundings with a mixture of figures from the past and modern day. One figure sits in field of Taro plants which exist in the place of Maui’s sugar plantation, next to the restored flowing river.
I was introduced to a Kumu Hula, and in the spirit of true community art and collaboration, she helped direct the poses of the figures, infusing her own personal meaning through the figures’ gesture, actions and placement in the design.
These figures highlight the importance preserving of Hawaiian Cultural practices and the restoration of the water to the land, free of ownership, and for the benefit of future generations.
Images work their way through the sky, intermingled with rays representing the Na Wai‘eha and the sunlight. They depict a range of topics, from the burning of the sugarcane crops, the bombing of Kaho’olawe Island, introduction of invasive and endangered species, development and industry threatening the ecology.
Among the images are photos taken from the Hui No’eau’s #mauieveryday Instagram campaign, in which residents posted photos responding to daily questions concerning on island life. This campaign utilized the immediacy of technology to crowdsource and breathe new life into the community art process.
This residency was the brainchild of Kelly McHugh from the Hui No'eau Center. Her tenacity and the immense support and generosity of others especially a very pregnant Erin Wade, of the Maui County Planning Department.
The mural found its home on Main St in Wailuku, on the side of Requests Music. I first found this wall, through a virtual wall hunt using Google Street View. Kelly also spotted this wall as a prime candidate.
A separate wall had to be added to the corrugated siding before I could begin. Once again through the generosity of others, led by Lesley Oshiro, this was able to happen in a day.
I went on a small press campaign for the mural. Kelly and I did 3 morning radio shows, and a TV interview, to spread the word about the project and boost enrollment for my classes.
I taught 6 courses in the two weeks I had to paint the mural. The classes were teen and adult intensive, and for professional development. The majority of classes and my work took place in this artist's studio on the Hui grounds.
For my teen intensive courses, I had students photograph themselves and learn enlargement through drawing from grids. These paintings were finished in 12 hours total. This was a great class!
Prints were made from the photos onsite, and everyone spent their first day drawing on 5'x5' panels.
The faces were blown up mural scale, the tight cropping forces one to imagine the piece as part of a much larger mural.
During the second day, with the drawings tightly laid out, the portraits were quickly filled in with paint.
Visit the video section of the site to see a timelapse video of the painting process.
The students were thrilled with the results, and even stayed an extra hour to photograph and pose in front of their work.
As the classes were progressing, paint days were also held in the same space. Things had to move quickly.
To make the most out of the time I had, large sections were built up and painted in layers.
Staff from the Hui would stop in day and night to lend a hand. Caroline Killhour runs the Hui No'eau center, coincidentally she also was a Tyler Graduate who majored in painting. We've shared many instructors despite a 20 year gap.
Iao Valley Progress
I spent many sleepless nights in the studio, trying to adhere to a very strict self-imposed schedule. All of the murals 24 panels were drawn out in one day, then painted with a first coat by the end of the first week.
The Kumu Hula was projected and blocked in just inside of 12 hours of being photographed.
...as was the little girl.
Use of stencils made complex pattern painting very easy to do inside our timeframe.
Janet Sato, the most respected art teacher on the island pops in with another student to lend a hand on the last day of painting in the studio.
In keeping with the running theme of a tight schedule, the mural was installed in one day.
...it just so happened to be the hottest day of the year to date on Maui. Local artist Billy Welker was on hand to help install the mural and learn the technique. Billy is a great painter and craftsman who helped us through quite a few jams during the project.
Photo: Ashley Takitani
With a tent and lots of bottled water, we powered our way through the heat. The murals stained glass was also installed on day one. Photo: Ashley Takitani
Wailuku residents and shop owners came by all day to talk to the Hui staff about the project and give feedback. Everyone was very positive about the work.
Day two onsite consisted of touch up painting throughout the mural.
At the end of the day, posing with Billy and Claudio Marchetti two of my four main assistants on the project. Exhausted!
We were all interviewed by Akaku Maui Community Television at the end of the installation. For more info, visit the glass section of this site, and click here for the residency website I created.