Hawai’i Nei Exhibition 2023 My Process as a Juror- Exploration and Challenges

Hawaii Nei 2023 Poster.mag JpgHaving entered my art in many juried exhibitions, I have found the process of selection has always felt like a mystery.  Seriously! As an artist who has devoted hours and days of my time, energy and love to my project, how is it that I don’t get to understand the process of these people who have been given the job of choosing the art that is accepted and receives awards?

I want more transparency in the art world. I hope that my reflections on this process help all of us in relating with and understanding the selection process involved in this particular exhibition.

Some background information

As the jurors for the adult division, Nainoa Rosehill and I met at Wailoa Center to make the initial selection of art accepted into the show through images on the CAFÉ website.  Then over a week later we met again to select the art to receive awards. There were a total of 215 adult entries and we were allowed to select 100 pieces.

We had a zoom meeting prior to the first selection, just to get to know each other. I wanted to understand his approach to art and learn more about who he is. This meeting was a way of attuning to each other to create more ease and flow in our collaborative process.

These are a few of the considerations  that influenced our selections and the awards:

  1. Mastery and skill in the medium used by the artist. This also included unusual or unique approaches to materials used or the execution of an unexpected approach to the work.
  2. We considered how each piece contributes to inspiring or educating people and eliciting a deeper conversation about the species or environment. The questions in my mind were:

“What does this piece express that is new or intriguing about this subject?”

“How does this piece move us forward in how we experience, talk about or engage with this subject?”

  1. One of my special considerations in regard to awards was the artist’s body of work, their overall involvement, understanding and commitment to conservation. This factor did not exclude artists who are new to this kind of art, however I did research to understand more about many of the artists in the final selections. I think this was influenced by my own memory of an award I received in one of the early Hawai’I Nei exhibitions, and how this acknowledgement encouraged me to deepen my learning and commitment to environmental conservation topics in my own art.
  2. As the process went along, I found myself influenced by Nainoa’s awareness of unique and unusual choices in materials, medium or subject. We noticed when we lingered over a piece with surprise and delight.

There were so many hard decisions in the awards part of the process. Even now I find myself thinking about particular pieces that we were not able to recognize with an award.  I chose “The Year of the Snail” as my Honorable Mention because of the importance of this species and because Martha Roditti’s unique choice of presentation and materials were so interesting.  With my printmaking background,  John Mydock’s He’e in the Aloha Reef, with its detailed and exquisite incising,  lit up all the pleasure centers in my brain. That was a tough call.

In addition  to  the beauty of “Out of the Mist, Delissea Argutidentata” by Suzi Lacey,  we found this image compelling because it tells the story of the recent discovery of this special plant that was thought to be extinct, and the heroic efforts of many people and agencies involved in replanting it in the wild. This image tells a big story of conservation in action.

Emily Herb’s “Web of Life” was compelling, not only because of her mastery of a difficult medium, but also because it was such a powerful narrative of the relationship and life-cycle of the endangered Palila and Māmane in one of our most critically impacted environments.

As Nainoa and I shared hours of talking about the art, I noticed that his deep understanding and knowledge of his culture and land was helping me to interpret some of the art in deeper ways that were new for me. I also noticed his attraction to pieces that evoked a primal rawness and power.  In my mind, his choice of “‘Alalā at Panaʻewa” by Shay Hachiya was a bold move that brings some edginess to the selections.  Our choice of Ethan Froneyʻs Hāʻukeʻukeʻulaʻula Test in the 3-D category was influenced by Nainoaʻs  attraction to the bold use of metal to depict a decomposing urchin.  I got it! Anyone who explores reefs often sees decomposing coral, shells and urchins, and knows that all that calcium carbonate eventually becomes the reef. What a bold, and yet subtle expression of the life cycle of a sea creature and itʻs habitat!

Our jurorʻs choice award to Saxony Charlotʻs “Forget-Me-Not” was our easiest decision. Her expression of the extinct Kioea bird and hau hele, the flower it co-evolved with, is a heartbreaking testament to our history of lack of awareness and care for the environment, and a call to do better in the future. The exquisite detail and mastery of her medium is impressive, as is the story she posted on her instagram page @autochthonus_hawaii.

I believe that every juried art exhibition is influenced by the preferences and, perhaps, biases, of the people choosing the art.  Here are a few of mine:

As a printmaker I look for details and organic materials.  Iʻm not a fan of metal prints from an aesthetic or environmental perspective. My early training in photography leads my attention to high-resolution photos with a wide range of tonal values. I respond most to environmental art that has a clear and strong visual narrative, or generates an insight, feeling or new awareness.

Being a juror for this exhibition was a tough job! So many skillful and evocative pieces did not get awards because of the limits in this structure of showing art. What stands out for me is the dialogue that Nainoa and I engaged in as we slowly and carefully viewed and discussed each piece.  I hope that my sharing about the process helps deepen the conversations we have about environmental art. In the end itʻs the conversations and inspiration that we experience together that moves us to care and take action to preserve our native species.  Iʻm so grateful to Amelie Sterling and all the folks at Three Mountain Alliance who work so hard to create this special event that calls artists, residents and visitors to engage more deeply in our kuleana to malama our precious and fragile life of the land here on Hawai’I island.

Life in Hawaii- Palm trees, Beaches, Mai tais and Wild boars

The most interesting and stressful event for most of us who have farms up here in Kahalu’u lately is the massive visitations of wild pigs. I wish a were a gardener because they roto-till the land to perfection. Except that the places they choose are not great spots for a garden!

It’s crazy!

I see big families – Mom, Dad, teenagers and tiny babies roaming at all hours through my yard and macadamia orchard, rooting for grubs and eating the nuts on the ground. I’d rather sell those nuts – since that is the entire point of having a macadamia farm, but these pigs don’t seem to understand the economics of why those nuts are laying on the ground.

A giant boar with a curly tail often comes alone right under my bedroom lanai sliding door and enjoys his breakfast at dawn. Part of me feels frustrated at the invasion, and the other part feels fascinated, and slightly repelled, as I spy on him from my secret hiding place – my hog blind.

A family of 13 pigs visited for a Sunday afternoon snacking session. The older males were testy with the teenagers, and snorted and chased them away from the best rooting spots. One big boar…  well, how can I say this ……. tried to have non-consensual relations with a lady pig and was immediately rejected. He took it quite well, strolling away with his dignity intact. Or so thought! I’m actually a terrible biologist! I make up stories that are probably all wrong.


Landscaping Our Hawaii Homes with Native Plants

Why is landscaping our homes with Hawaii native plants so important? 

Did you know that Hawaii is known as the endangered species capital of the world?

It’s a complicated story, one for history books, but here are a few reasons why:

For 200-plus years Hawaii residents have been buying or bringing in non-native plants, animals and insects that have taken over the natural landscape.

Most plants that were here prior to Captain Cook’s arrival were  hosts to native bird or insect species. So many native birds and important insects are endangered or extinct is because their food source or host plant is rare or gone.

Biologists call this “loss of habitat” and we residents are largely responsible for this problem.

Want to do one simple thing that will help Hawaii’s plants, insects and birds survive?

Do I hear yes?

Ok then- Plant a few native species in your yard or land.

See the perfect example of native plants in my woodcut print above, “Rainforest Dance.”  The Kamehameha butterfly lays it’s eggs on the mamaki plant and the caterpillars then voraciously consume leaves until it’s time to make a cocoon. The only plants that will feed the Kamehameha caterpillar are a few natives in the Urticaceae family.  Mamaki is the most common, and is super-easy to grow if you live in a wettish region. Plus,  you’ll be able to harvest some for yourself. Mamaki is an important medicinal tea that combats vog symptoms.

Here’s How to Add Natives to Your Land or Yard:

Instead of going to Walmart to buy pretty plants, visit your local native plant nursery.

List of Hawaii Native Plant Nurseries

People who own these nurseries are passionate about their work and will help you get plants that are right for your environment.

Listen Rick Barboza talk about 5 easy to grown native plants in this University of Hawaii video.

Full disclosure- I’m better at creating native species art than I am in growing actual plants.  Even so, here is my native species catalog for my farm:

  • Lots of Kukui trees
  • 3 ‘Ohi’a trees ( I love them!)
  • Laua’e fern
  • Moi – grasslike plant
  • Awapuhi ginger
  • Ilima – sometimes when it pops up.
  • Loulu palm- highly endangered

So, off you go!

Amble around your yard or land and notice where you’d like to see color and beautiful shapes. Take some photos and then pay a visit to your nearby native plant nursery and ask for landscaping advice.

Two more ways you can help:

  • If you love Hawaii, but have a black thumb like me, you can still help by contributing to conservation organizations that directly save many endangered species through reforestation efforts.Check out Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Kona and the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative. These are great places to visit and learn more about Hawaii’s natural environment.
  • You can support Hawaii artists who focus their work around native species. When you purchase our art you are funding the time and energy it requires for us to tell the story of the life of the land. Hawaii artists invest a huge amount of time and resources researching our subjects so we can inspire and educate people. Many of these artists (like yours truly) donate art to conservation organization fundraisers.  The health of the ‘aina (land) is our passion!  Check out the Hawaii Nei Native Species Art Competition which hosts an art exhibition annually at Wailoa Center. “Rainforest Dance” the original woodcut print above is available through my website:

Our Kuleana

Kuleana is a Hawaiian value and practice which means responsibility. It speaks to reciprocity and our responsibility to what sustains us. I hope my thoughts have given you all some ideas on how we can all give back to the land we love.

If you have any questions, please reach out to me by email: or give me a call at 808-345-0907 and I’m happy to talk with you.

Sketch Process

How I Create Art

I notice that people often talk about the creative process as though it’s a lightning strike of visionary inspiration. For me it’s more like a daily process of curiously noticing everything that comes my way. When I’m paying attention to the details eventually a few of life’s seemingly random dots start to connect up into an insight or idea. A significant aspect of my creative process involves learning something new. I love learning almost anything new, with the exception of math.

While the first part of creativity is simply my way of living life, the next part is more focused on an outcome. I research my topic. I sit down with a cup of coffee and all of my Hawaiiana and botany books. Usually I’ll spend some time hanging out with our friend google, and often I reach out to botanists for information. Jen Lawson, a botanist and Executive Director of the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative ( is one of my favorite go-to experts for info on plants.

At this point, I’m very focused inside myself finding the story. As I gather more information and it melds with my insight and idea, the storyline of the image begins to form.

The next part is sketching. For me, and many artists, there is great joy, and also tension in this part of the process. A blank sheet of paper is scary! I have to stay in the moment and not expect to come up with a final sketch. I use a daily productivity planner to keep me on task with my work, but never, never will you see an entry like “finish coral reef sketch” in my “do list”.

When I’m sketching an image I’m mostly focused on creating a beautiful composition and thinking about what to include or exclude. I’ve learned to keep returning to the sketch no matter what roadblocks seems to arise.

For me creativity is quite simply about paying attention, receiving the idea and then nose to the grindstone working out the details. Your process will be uniquely your own. If you are learning to cultivate your creative process, I’d suggest noticing your own natural way of learning and taking in inspiration.  Notice your emotions, your thought processes and how you feel in your body. And then build on those habits and strengths until you began to experience a natural and more structured pathway to joyful creative expression.

Hapuu Fern

Death in the Forest

The cycle of renewal and growth in the rainforest depends on the death of its inhabitants.

How else would the earth build healthy soil that supports new life? I expect to see declining and dying trees and plants when I’m hiking. However, dying trees and plants usually are not part of the beauty that touches me so deeply on forest walks. And yet, the hapu’u fern takes the process of dying to a new level by giving us the gift of beautiful sculptures embedded in the earth as it decomposes into rich forest floor humus. First, the hapu’u falls over, and then as it decomposes its underlying textures and the stubs of frond branches create a visual delight that rivals the intentional art of the world’s best sculptors and weavers.

These textures don’t show up until the fern has been dead for quite a while. This giant fern that dominates the rainforest with it’s stately beauty is still making a big statement long after its death. What other ways can you think of in which spectacular beauty shows up in such an unexpected way?

Fire In The Land


Last night I was standing on my lanai hearing massive amounts of water falling from the sky and landing on the roof, the kukui and rubber trees, and the hard lava earth. A sound we call R A I N. That word RAIN doesn’t really cover the experience. It’s too easy to tell a quick story about RAIN, like “the rain was so loud I had to get off the phone. Our stories about rain reduce it to an inconvenience– “too loud,” “making me wet” “too much for my wimpy windshield wipers”. Or sometimes it’s framed as a resource we need– desperate for rain for our gardens.

What would it be like to just be with rain? Water hitting floppy kukui leaves makes a different sound than water hitting the round stiff leaves of the rubber tree. I noticed that there was something else I was hearing under the landing of water– a steady high-pitched tone. Probably one of those crickety-type of insects that makes amazing noises just by rubbing their rough legs together, which when I think about it, is no more or less amazing than humans making noises by generating sound from thoughts in our brains and movement in our hearts that moves to a specific place in our necks and is amplified out through our mouths.

Sound is a new awareness in my life. I’m so visual. Humans are so visual, generally. I recently came across this quote: “Vision eviscerates all of our other senses”. I often move on a well-traveled highway between my eyes and my brain, and from this short fast trip I construct simple stories about what life is bringing to me. I loved that moment last night when the RAIN became more than a flat story; suddenly I was perceiving multi-layered sound and imagining insects and leaves receiving and shedding wetness. I want more moments like this!


Honeybee Chemistry

Bees can visit 2000 flowers a day in their quest to collect nectar for the hive. bees fly, they pick up a positive electrical charge from the air. An experiment revealed that flowers emit a specific electrical signal that attracts bees when their nectar supply has been regenerated. This explains why I see bees passing by many flowers and landing on the one flower that has recharged its nectar supply.

This girl is gathering nectar from a Beach Heliotrope at Manini Beach. She has little balls of beige pollen attached to her legs. In case you didn’t know, sigh…… it’s the girl bees that do all the work in the hive and flying thousands of miles to gather nectar. It’s not that the guys, the drones, don’t do any work at all. Their main job is to mate with the Queen. That’s a lot of work. And then they immediately die.


Mom Baby Goats


I often hike the Keauhou coastline, traversing my way through Kiawe thickets and making my way down to the red and black high-fired expanse of undulating pahoehoe formations along the ocean. One day I meandered along lost in my daydreams. Out of thin air a herd of goats bolted, flying in a swirl of delicate hooves, horns pointing skyward, grace set in motion skimming across lava, against the deep blue sky and ocean spewing white spray. I was stunned. I’d have never guessed that goats could embody the essence of beauty with such presence and power.

I thought I knew what goats were about. Not much about goats interested me – until that day. How can an animal whose hooves are no larger than the circumference of a tea cup race at that speed across tumbled and twisted lava? I experienced goats for the first time in my life. I now imagine that goats have senses and ways of perceiving that I cannot fathom. Is it too fantastic to propose that maybe they even may have sensors, like eyes, in their hooves that guide them across any terrain they care to traverse? And at any speed they care to traverse it. And with glorious confidence!

In my little box, when I thought “goat” knee-jerk images arose: barnyards, whiny bleating, rank smell, their reputation for eating anything that doesn’t move. Now the thought “goat” brings me a surge of happiness, blue sky and ocean, delicate, purposeful, power, and grace.

Art is a sure way out of the box. My opening step in creating art is usually a wisp of an idea that comes to me and seems to invite me to explore. So I step forward and I hear, I touch, I feel curiosity – wondering what will come. And then more comes. I see color I never saw before. I discern. I notice. And then usually at some point the image comes full force or trickles in through dreams or insights. This process calls me to pay attention and receive life in its infinite forms. It is this openness to life that gives me my deepest joy. Thank you my dear goat friends, for showing me how to be alive!

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