25 years of art & nature


POSTED: Sunday, April 26, 2009

IN 1985, sparked by the beauty and vulnerability of the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens in Kaneohe, a group of art students and professors created the annual “;Aloha Ho'omaluhia”; art exhibit.

“;We started the show to express the beauty of the gardens and partly as a protest: We didn't know where the H-3 (freeway) was going to be built, and it could have gone right through the park,”; says painter Noreen Naughton, a University of Hawaii-Manoa art student at the time. She served as curator for the exhibit through 1998.

As it turned out, the freeway didn't encroach upon the gardens, and the show has continued quietly for 25 years. To commemorate its silver anniversary, Gallery Iolani at Windward Community College is exhibiting “;Aloha Ho'omaluhia 25,”; a retrospective featuring works by participants over the years. The show is dedicated to another of the founders, John Wisnosky, who retired as UH Art Department chairman in 2005 and died in 2006.

Over the 25 years, all the founding members developed careers as art educators. Then-UH students Jonathan Busse and Adella Buss teach, at WCC and Kapiolani Community College, respectively; Naughton and Michel Kaiser have retired (Naughton from KCC and Kaiser from Honolulu Community College).

What never changes, however, is their love of the gardens and the relationships they developed there.

“;We all had the same purpose: to either glorify the beauty of the landscape or to contest the intervention of human beings,”; Kaiser says. “;It made for long-lasting friendships.”;

“;I still try to get to the park at least once a week,”; Naughton says. “;That's partly because it's gated. I like to paint by myself, and it's the only place I feel safe.”;

Kaiser, who's originally from Europe, has an attachment to the site because it was a place where he learned to translate the vivid colors of Hawaii onto canvas.

“;When I first came to Hawaii, I found the landscape very difficult. It's hard for (the art) not to look like a postcard,”; he says.

Nowadays, Kaiser travels frequently and doesn't visit the gardens regularly.

“;But whenever I have friends (visiting), I show them the park,”; he says. “;I'm very attached to it.”;

“;Aloha Ho'omaluhia 25”; runs through May 10 at Gallery Iolani. Gallery hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays and Sundays. Call 236-9155.