Cindy Conklin • Village Galleries Maui


Hula Kahiko Series
Original watercolors by Cindy Conklin

From my first trips to Hawaii as a tourist twenty years ago, the ancient hula, the hula Kahiko was a powerful experience.  The language and symbolism of the dance was the poetry and art of old Hawaii.  Since the Hawaiians had no two dimensional art which could express the complexity of their culture, everything was poured into the hula which went beyond simple expression ending as an art form which encompassed the entire human experience.

The symbols and images I used in this watercolor painting on toned handmade paper feature the male dancer who is the essence of power and strength or the female dancer who embodies grace and beauty.  Smaller figures repeated along the sides and margins of the piece indicate other dancers, male and female. Some are repeated in rows much as the dancers in a halau would dance in unison. Other elements in the painting include petroglyphs of many kinds which are one of the very few types of  two dimensional art which remain from ancient Hawaii.  Some of the images are easy to interpret while others have meanings which can only be guessed at.  The petroglyphs were pecked into smooth lava rock and took a long time to incise.  Among the easy to identify images are: fish, turtle, centipede and  human figures of various types.  Many of these images are very much like those found in Indian cultures throughout the Western U.S.

Another element is the tattoo like geometric patterns.  Tattoos which were worn by both men and women and indicated rank and lineage.  Designs closely resembling tattoos also occurred on beaten tapa cloth, the beaten bark fiber which Hawaiians used for clothing and shrouds.  My very  restrained color scheme follows the limited palette which tapa artists employed using natural dyes from plants for their work.  Lastly, the palm trees and leaves of various types are used to indicate the tropical setting of the piece.

Artist's Statement…

"Moving to Hawai`i in 1992 liberated my art and shocked me into a new plane of awareness of the outrageous beauty, interconnectedness and magic of the natural world."

Conklin's works are in many collections including The State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Aloha Oil Company and private collections worldwide.

She is a member of Hawaii Watercolor Society, Honolulu Printmakers Workshop, Association of Hawaii Artists, Pacific Handcrafters Guild.

BA Art History and Studio Art, Oakland University, Rochester, MI.

MA Art History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Advanced study in Art, Massachusetts College of Art, and School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. Art instructor in Massachusetts and Georgia.