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Karen Kozojet Ching on Pathway to Heiau

Pathway to Heiau, acrylic on canvas, by Karen Kozojet Ching. (click for larger image)
Pathway to Heiau, acrylic on canvas, by Karen Kozojet Ching. (click for larger image)

Distant cows grazing on windswept grass, all under a huge expanse of sky: this American landscape sounds like the Midwest, but the palm trees atop the hill point to a different origin. We asked the artist, Karen Kozojet Ching, to tell us a little about this painting, the winner of the Chameli & Amiya Bose Award in ’Scapes.

Where is Pathway to Heiau?
Karen Kozojet Ching: It is located on the Big Island of Hawai’i. A heiau is a Hawaiian temple made of piled lava rock.

What made you want to paint this spot?
The terrain captivated my attention. The sky was breathtaking. I was also surprised to see cattle in Hawaii.

Pu’ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site on the island of Hawai’i. (photo courtesy National Park Service)

Paths have always intrigued me. They are a metaphor for our own life journey. There is a beginning, end, and so many experiences and choices along the way.

What was your goal with this painting?
I wanted to express the visceral connection to the landscape. It was bright and arid. The grasses and palms swayed beneath the island breeze.

Is this piece part of a series?
My husband is Hawaiian. We vacationed on the Big Island with my husband’s extended family. His parents delighted in sharing their culture with their grandchildren. We went on many island excursions. I created a body of work as a tribute to my ‘ohana’s Hawaiian heritage. ‘Ohana means family.

The series also included paintings of richly textured petroglyphs and seascapes. Petroglyphs are lava rock carvings etched into stone centuries ago by Native Hawaiians.

Pathway to Heiau (detail) by Karen Kozojet Ching
Pathway to Heiau (detail) by Karen Kozojet Ching

How is it different from other landscapes you’ve painted?
Each painting is a unique exercise in creative thinking. This painting is a bit more raw or incomplete than most of my work. I wanted the expressionistic strokes to expose the cadmium underpainting to reflect warmth of the afternoon.

Why are you a painter?
I need to create.

Pathway to Heiau (detail) by Karen Kozojet Ching
Pathway to Heiau (detail) by Karen Kozojet Ching

Painting is a reflection of my observations and experiences. I want to share with the viewer the awe that captivated my attention when I first saw the subject. I am continually learning new techniques and experimenting with innovative materials to better articulate my vision.

What’s a perfect day in the studio?
The perfect day has no time constraints.

Painting to me is a transcendent experience. I enter into a meditative process that is driven by intuition. I place the energy of the moment onto the canvas. I alternate between studio and plein-air to keep my senses keen.

’Scapes is open through Monday, September 7. 

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