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Roots + Lava = More Roots, at East Hawai‘i Cultural Center

Stephen Lang
Onomea artist Stephen U. Lang used albezia trunks for his installation, Roots, at the East Hawai'i Cultural Center through August 30. 2019. Works by Monica Mann, Follow the Light, are also featured.

Though not in the news every day, the 2018 K?lauea eruption continues to reverberate in people’s lives. Currently, at the East Hawai‘i Cultural Center, an artist’s experience of total devastation has given rise to an installation that reflects on roots.

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa

The East Hawai‘i Cultural Center on the Wailuku river side of Hilo, sits across shady, gracious, Kal?kaua Park.  The building itself is shady and gracious, it’s the old Hilo Police headquarters, with columns, a verandah, and 12 foot ceilings.

For the month of August, 2019, Stephen U. Lang has installed his show, Roots, inside.  Picture towering, slender, albezia trunks, stripped clean, representing roots in the world that Lang imagines underground. These works are actually his second shot at this.  He lost pretty much everything last June, 2018. when lava overran his studio and home in Kapoho.

Stephen Lang
Credit Stephen Lang

“There were some pieces there that I really wish I’d done whatever necessary to save. They haunt me still.  But the lava came and it ate my house, ate my farm, ate my car, and it ate my whole show."

With a rueful, but not bitter laugh, Lang says, when you lose on that level, there’s a degree of mourning that takes place.

“This show gave me something to do, something to focus on, so that I could produce something instead of wallowing.”

Lang extolls the lives and virtues of roots.

“They’re unbelievably significant in human existence and we don’t treat them well. We blacktop areas, we do our best to prevent root growth, but it truly is, in relation to the soil the foundation for everything. On land, our roots are our connection to life.”

After being uprooted by lava, Lang says he thought he’d never replace his love for Kapoho.  His new home, however, is growing on Lang and his wife, artist Kaori Ukaji. They’ve found a place in Onomea, north of Hilo.

Asked, what is important for growing roots in your new place?  Lang said, meeting and exchanging with new neighbors has had the most settling effect.

See the installation, Roots, by Stephen U. Lang at the EHCC through August 30, 2019. 

Andrzej Karamarz
Credit Andrzej Karamarz
Monika Mann. Follow The Light. Installation at East Hawai'i Cultural Center

In the Makai Gallery, find an installation by Monika Mann, titled “Follow the Light.” The works explore her feelings about death.

EHCC is free and open to the public. Regular gallery hours 10:00 am - 4:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday.

Address:  141 Kalakaua St, Hilo, HI 96720

Phone:     (808) 961-5711
Email:      admin@ehcc.org

You may be interested in the Gamelan Group Mondays and Wednesdays, 4pm, with Carol Walker.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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