X MARKS THE SPOT
Famous statues land
in the drink
Here we are in the middle of the ocean, but still, what are the chances that both of the most famous statues in Hawaii would be lost at sea?
It's well known that the original casting of the Kamehameha statue sank en route to the islands and was recovered many years later. But Marisol Escobar's striking, boxy statue of headed-for-sainthood Father Damien of Molokai -- there's one at the state Capitol and a copy at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. -- had its own share of sea changes.
Back in the '60s, 66 artists vied to create a statue of Father Damien, and seven were chosen to submit miniatures. Venezuelan artist Marisol, based in New York, was a hot commodity at the time, and her submission was typical of her work -- portraits with faces, hands and feet attached to squarish blocks of wood -- and she focused on Damien in the latter stages of his life, wasted by leprosy. It was modern, it was moving and it evoked an emotional reaction in viewers.
At the time, she said she wanted "to undertake the work directly and simply in much the same way Father Damien did his work." Marisol's strong religious faith and respect for the common man, coupled with a mischievous sense of humor, color most of her works.
Since Damien was fond of carpentry, her first full-size model was in wood. But then the plaster casting of it was somehow shattered in midocean, voyaging to the foundry in Viareggio, Italy. She cast another copy, which reached Italy but disappeared. Her third effort was a wax impression, which actually reached the foundry, but when the bronze statue was shipped to New York, it stalled on the pier during a longshoremen's strike.
A second casting was sent directly to Washington, D.C. This statue and a recasting of Kamehameha were dedicated on April 15, 1969, 80 years after Damien died. At one point the foundation beneath the Hawaii statue had to be shored up to adjust for the weight of the work.
"X Marks the Spot"
is a weekly feature documenting historic monuments and sites around Oahu. Send suggestions to email@example.com