36 Views of Mauna Kea


A series of works capturing Hawaiʻi Island’s sacred mountain as seen from its surrounding human and animal communities, inspired by Hiroshige’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. 

I lived in Hilo for a year in 2014 to do research for my documentary about the palila, a critically endangered Hawaiian finch that exclusively lives on Mauna Kea. I was struck by the immense power and sacred energy of Mauna Kea, ever-present like a guardian or grandparent. Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai‘i is considered most sacred of mountains to Native Hawaiians, inspiring songs, legends and poetry. This dormant shield volcano, the second largest in our solar system, is Hawai‘i’s highest peak at 13,796 feet tall. Measured from its ocean base, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain on Earth. I saw connections to another sacred mountain, Fuji-san, the highest mountain in Japan (12,388 feet) and an active volcano which last erupted in 1707. Mount Fuji has been depicted by many artists for its beautiful shape and sacred status. Both mountains are thought of as homes to spirits and gods.

I was inspired to create “Thirty-Six Views of Mauna Kea” from Hiroshige’s “Thirty-Six Views of Fuji (1859),” which was also the final series of ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints) he produced before he died. Hiroshige was well-known for his gentle and colorful images of nature, landscapes and people, as well as his use of bokashi, a Japanese woodblock printing technique in which printers wiped and diluted the amount of pigment applied to the woodblock to create a gradation of color. The idea of a set of “36 Views” is a traditional Japanese format, referring back to a group of 36 revered poets.

Updating the printing process, I painted my images of Mauna Kea using computer tools and applications (Wacom tablet, Adobe Flash and Adobe Illustrator), while evoking the aesthetics and style of Hiroshige’s masterworks. The images were digitally printed on a solvent printer onto laminated shoji paper; the sizes of the prints reflect traditional ukiyo-e sizes. Contemplating other new, technological “views” of the great mountain, I created works in video and sculpture of the mountain expanding upon time and space. Pu‘u is the Hawaiian word for mound; in “Golden Pu‘u,” the sculpture nods to the topographical and aerial views of Mauna Kea’s cinder cones dotting its slopes. “Sunrise/Sunset Study” (paintings) were studies for, “A Perfect Day” (video), a montage of video and animation to witness the timeless grandeur of Mauna Kea.

Within meditations of a sacred mountain in the piko (center) of Hawai‘i Island, my personal history with Hilo, and capturing views of communities surrounding Mauna Kea, I hope audiences will see the spiritual and empathetic connections to landscapes and views that live in our deepest memories.

Solo exhibition presented as culmination of Box Jelly/Fishcake Artist-in-Residence Program.

Limited-edition prints available for purchase.

24. SUNRISE/SUNSET STUDY 1, 2017, watercolor & acrylic painting on wood panel, 8 x 10 in.

25. SUNRISE/SUNSET STUDY 2, 2017, watercolor & acrylic painting on wood panel, 8 x 10 in.

26. SUNRISE/SUNSET STUDY 3, 2017, watercolor & acrylic painting on wood panel, 8 x 10 in.

27. SUNRISE/SUNSET STUDY 4, 2017, watercolor & acrylic painting on wood panel, 8 x 10 in.

31. SUNRISE/SUNSET, 2017, video installation, dimensions variable

Using Format