Sponsor Statement - Richard Wasnich
The mural project at Nalu Lani Plaza, 401 Kamakee Street, Honolulu, Hawaii, was inspired by the “La Fresque Des Quebecois” in Quebec City, Canada. This notable mural incorporates architectural features of the surrounding historic district, along with major figures from Quebec’s history. It is a major tourist attraction in Quebec City.
An international competition was held and the artists were asked to submit concepts that would focus on the territorial era of Hawaii’s history, so as to complement the territorial style of the building. It was also desired that the project be culturally accurate and appropriate.
The commission was awarded to internationally renowned John Pugh of California. His submission features a massive, trompe l’oeil wave, within which is visible the image of Queen Liliu’okalani, who symbolically endures the tide of American influence. Although her reign ended, her onipaa in the face of adversity gave life to the values of Hawaiian culture, and continues to inspire these values among Hawaii’s multi-cultural population.
Also in the mural are children who have come to offer gifts and share aloha, and to remember Liliu’okalani’s love and commitment to the children of Hawaii. The mural and adjacent mini-park will be dedicated to the children of Hawaii, in the hope that they will continue to be inspired by the best values of Hawaiian culture.
Further within the wave is Prince Kuhio, who also played an important role in the transition from the Hawaiian Kingdom to a Territory of the United States. And riding the wave is Duke Kahanamoku, who epitomized Hawaiian values to the entire world.
The adjacent park includes a privately-held parcel which is contiguous with a new city park. It is intended that the adjacent park will serve as an urban sanctuary where visitors may sit and contemplate the mural’s message, aesthetics, and illusion of reality.
History - Kauila Clark
The Nalu Lani Mural depicts three Native Hawaiian leaders who shaped the wave of cultural and political change in Hawaii in the early 20th century. Queen Lili‘uokalani, Lydia Kamakaeha Walania Lili‘uokalani Dominis (1842-1917), was the last reigning queen of the Nation of Hawaii; her brother was King David Kalākaua, the last reigning king. She was true to the Hawaiian Nation and her people until her death in 1917. She was crowned Queen in 1891 and overthrown in 1893. She was married to John Dominis in 1862 and lived with his parents at Washington Place. Her will established the Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center and Trust to care for destitute and orphan children of aboriginal blood living in Hawaii. Also in the mural are children who have come to offer gifts and share aloha, and to remember Lili‘uokalani’s love for and commitment to the children of Hawaii.
Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole (1862-1923) was a strong supporter of Queen Lili‘uokalani’s reign and was jailed after an attempted overthrow of the Republic of Hawaii’s government. Two years later, he was elected the Honorable Congressman from Hawaii to the United States Congress and served for 10 terms. His legacy is the Native Hawaiian Homes Congressional Act, created to put Native Hawaiians back on the land to rehabilitate them through agriculture and ranching activities.
Duke Paoa Kahanamoku (1890-1968) was considered the father of international surfing. Between 1912 and 1932, he won three gold, two silver, and one bronze Olympic medal in swimming and water polo. In 1934, he was elected Honolulu Sheriff, a position he served in until 1960. He was known fondly as Hawaii’s Ambassador of Aloha.
Artist Statement - John Pugh
I am a trompe l'oeil artist focusing primarily on mural painting. I have found that the "language" of life-size illusions allow me to communicate with a very large audience. It seems almost universal that people take delight in being visually tricked. Once intrigued by the illusion, the viewer may easily cross the artistic threshold and is invited to explore the concept of the piece. I have also found that by creating architectural illusion that integrates with the existing environment both optically and aesthetically, the art transcends the "separateness" that public art sometimes produces.
It is important for me, as an artist, to research the area and its community, formulating concepts based upon a multitude of historical and cultural viewpoints. Artists must be continually aware that their work can serve as a bridge between diverse cultural backgrounds. Public art is of great interest to me; providing a sense of purpose as it is a very powerful form of communication. It can link people together, stimulate a sense of pride within the community, and introduce the viewer to new ideas and perspectives.
When developing a mural, I respond to aspects of the location such as its architectural style or the natural surroundings. Often, I like to play with contrasting these environments with other places and/or times, creating a visual journey that departs from local reality. To create a crisp experience I also combine different materials or art mediums (with painted illusion) within the composition. By weaving together current and historical elements using these unique threads, it creates a fabric that conjures fresh feelings and perceptions, infusing together a new sense of place. Yet it is vitally nostalgic, for it is a new tapestry woven from the past and the present.