Kapulani Landgraf is an exhibiting artist whose work spans a variety of mediums, from 2 dimensional representations to sculpture to installation. Her work is solidly grounded in black and white photography, but all said, it is her heritage that takes her deeper into her practice. Here is Kapulani in her own words: “As a Native Hawaiian artist, my work is guided by my traditional Hawaiian values, language and culture. I feel compelled to celebrate my Hawaiian culture, but also to express my feelings on the profound changes that have happened and continue to occur in Hawaii by ongoing Western intrusion and its impact on Hawaiian rights, values, and history. Although much of my work laments the violations on the Hawaiian people, land and natural resources, they also offer hope with allusions to the strength and resilience of Hawaiian land and its people.”
She has exhibited all over Hawaii including the Bishop Museum, at IAIA in Santa Fe, in NYC and Seattle, and is part of the renowned Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation exhibit that has toured nationally. She is currently in the process of publishing her sixth book, Luke Wale, a collection of contemporary photographs integrated with Hawaiian verse chronicling treasured wahi pana, sacred lands, and ancient Hawaiian cultural features revealed but ultimately destroyed by the construction of the H-3 freeway on the island of Oahu, the only freeway in the United States, which was exempt from all environmental law.
Work sample descriptions:
1. Ponoiwi (Righteousness right down to the bone), Installation: 20 hand-etched silver gelatin prints, 20 shovels with cemented blades with holes, 20 circles of pa'akai (Hawaiian salt),15’ x 30’ x 15,’ 2011.The installation Ponoiwi documents the different burial grounds on the island of Maui, where sand mining and military development occurred historically and presently. The hanging shovels represent the continual desecration by development/construction companies. The cemented blades with holes symbolizes the pono (the right thing to do), by returning the sands back to the 'aina (land). The holes in the shovels also represent the traditional Hawaiian pit burials found in these sand dunes. The pa'akai (Hawaiian salt) in circles represent the need to purify the wrong that has been done on the land. The following 3 images are from the installation.
2. Waikapu (Sacred waters) (part of Ponoiwi installation), hand-etched silver gelatin print, 23 ½” x 28,” 2011.Waikapu (a documented traditional Hawaiian burial) is currently being sand mined by Ameron Hawai'i and shipped to Oahu by sand barge for use in the construction industry.
3. Pu'u Néné (Hill of Néné [Hawaiian goose) (part of Ponoiwi installation), handetched silver gelatin print, 23 ½” x 28,” 2011. Pu'u Néné was once a cinder cone, which was mined by the U.S. military to build the U.S. Naval Air Station on Maui during the mid-1940’s. The heiau (temple) of Papanéné was located at the base of Papanéné.
4. Piko ka moku (Center of the island), Installation: kapa (bark cloth) wrapped silver gelatin collage ka'ai (casket), 40 lines of wana (sea urchin shells), 40 marlin bills used traditionally as daggers, burnt kukui (candlenut) shells, 12’ x 12’ x 12,’ 2003.This mixed media installation was the piko (center) of “ku'u éwe…ku'u iwi…ku'u koko…” (my umbilical cord…my bones…my blood…) exhibit. Two ka'ai (caskets for chiefly burial) stand in a mound of burnt kukui (candlenut). They are encircled and protected by suspended lines of skeletal wana (sea urchin) shells and marlin bills. Traditionally, the marlin bills were used as daggers and metaphorically symbolize the alelo (tongue). A call for Native Hawaiians to fight with their voices the injustices impacting Hawaiian rights and ancestral burial grounds.
5. Make i ke kai hohonu (Death in the deep sea), Installation: kapa (bark cloth) wrapped silver gelatin collage ka'ai (casket), 400 ulua (crevalle) fishhooks, 40 triangular weights, red cinder, 16’ x 16’ x 16,’ 2001. This installation figuratively symbolizes the need for Hawaiian people to let their voices be heard. With the attacks on Hawaiian rights, it is critical time in Hawai'i. The kapa (bark cloth) covered ka'ai (casket) is the Hawaiian people, culture and history. By wrapping the kapa around, it is like “for he who wears the sea like a malo…wrapping the oceans around.” The sea was seen as taking away problems. The successions of hooks represent the ancestral lineage like a kuamo'o (backbone).The hooks symbolize the alelo (tongue) of the Hawaiian people.