He Hō’ike no ke Ola
Native cultures are jeopardized once they stop speaking to people in present day. The expressive freedom of printmaking allows me to communicate my deep personal feelings about rapidly changing cultural and natural landscapes, and enables me to assert Hawaiian practices through art.
He Hō’ike no ke Ola is an up-close look at the interconnected structure of diatoms to consider the relationship between micro and macro scenarios. Marine food chains collapse when diatoms, microscopic indicators of health and wellbeing in ocean ecosystems, are unable to thrive. This causes irreparable damage to reefs and other habitats upon which land and water systems rely, making islands vulnerable, and in some cases, uninhabitable. The complex networks of the requisite diatom give reason to ponder far-reaching ramifications of unsustainable practices.
These microscopic maps of wellness or destruction in our Hawaiian ocean waters have many parallels to the lives of native Hawaiians. Before colonization, native Hawaiians lived intertwined in a vibrant relationship with our shores, reefs, and ocean. Though many Hawaiians have resurrected traditional practices or evolved to remain connected to our culture and the land, as a people we are not thriving as we once were. The death rate among native Hawaiians increased rapidly after their first contact with Western foreigners. Estimates show that 1 in 17 native Hawaiians died within two years of western contact in Hawai’i and by 1840 the native Hawaiian population declined by 84%. Thus, the disintegrating, yet deeply connected diatoms also represent the struggle for Hawaiians to maintain and protect the land and oceans that are essential to our culture.
He Hō’ike no ke Ola is dedicated to my father-in-law, Dr. Paul Jokiel, for his lifetime of research on climate change and marine thermal tolerance.
The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu
Exhibition: Biennial IX (2010)
“For her biennial installation Tracked, Romanchak has pursued a carefully charted path of inspired response to an initial idea informed in part by the knowledge of GIS maps gained in preparation for Mahele, amplified by subsequent research and inquiry, and the investigation of print media to find the best vehicle to give visual and physical form to her emerging concept. As she describes this process, it began with a recent visit to a friend on Maui, Kerri Fay, who is a field manager for the Maui Nature Conservancy and is working toward a degree as a GIS (geographic information system) technician. In 2009, Fay provided GPS devices to a number of conservationists and tracking dogs that then moved for a year around and through a key watershed area, Waikamoi, in east Maui. The output from the devices generated a number of linear maps that provided a critical point of departure for Romanchak. Understanding the nature of these marks as both very literal in one context, and very abstract in another, she selected 1-inch by 1-inch sections of those maps and scaled them up to 3-foot square images. As she developed her ideas, the concept of a 21st century perspective of landscape mediated by technology emerged as the core of her project. In this case, taking what might be overlooked or was less- noticed—what would not exist, in fact, without the aid of technology (i.e. the GPS tracking)—allowed her to bring the project full circle, from land to tracks made visible with technology to marks rendered laboriously by hand.” - Marcia Morse
Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu
Exhibition: Ground (2017)
Hawaii printmakers, Abigail Romanchak and Charles Cohan created a body of work on the notion of the continuous breathing of a volcano. Romanchak’s prints are influenced by the sustained release of seismic energy typically associated with the underground movement of magma, while Cohan’s prints reference a graphic reverb of the movement of ground. Together, they hope their collaboration inclines towards a conclusion of the unceasing chanting of land.
This mixed media piece honors the Hawaiian moon phase Hua- when the moon is waxing and nearly full. Under the Hua moon, this night is considered sacred to the Hawaiian god of agriculture and as such is good luck for planting, fishing and healing.
Naepuni was inspired by the inside netting of a traditional Hawaiian feather cape. In creating this mixed media piece, I envision myself as a contemporary artist in dialogue with ancient predecessors from a twenty-first century standpoint. I have come to associate the labor intensive intricate olona netting of a Hawaiian feather cape with the highly advanced craftsmanship and unique identity of Hawaiian artisans.