|Jo-Anne Kamuela Kahanamoku-Sterling is an artist of great talent.
She is a contemporary artist who works in feathers and other related materials.
I met Jo-Anne when I was Executive Director of Hui No’eau Visual Art Center where
she was a board member.
She now lives on the Big Island, Hawaii, where I traveled to spend a weekend with
her to start the process of the painting. I normally work from life and then take
some photos to complete the work when the model is not available.
As she would not be able to make many sittings it was apparent that my inspiration
must come during that week-end. I thought she would want a visual having to do with
her feather work but I was wrong. I remembered her to be a multifaceted personality
who valued a vast range of activity; not the least of which was her participation
as a crew member on the voyage canoe Hoku’lea which sailed to Tahiti in 1980.
I struggled as to how to portray the essence of her strong personality and still
have a portrait that reflected her values. As the three days unfolded, I painted
and sketched her, and in between we walked, and talked. During this time I noticed
that everywhere we went she was looking at the plants and picking certain ones for
future projects while she talked about them. At night we looked at the constellations
and I realized she was conversant with celestial navigation as she pointed out the
Southern Cross and its importance to the Tahiti voyage, to her, and to the Hawaiian
During the last day as we walked through the tall grasses and as she reached for
the puffs of grass, I realized she is an artist who gathers to create new forms
of beauty be they people or works of art. I knew at that moment exactly how I wanted
the painting to look. With her beloved Southern Cross above her she gathers the
tall grass in the bright sunlight.