This winter's trip to Hawaii's Big Island was planned so that we could spend more time near Kilauea's volcanic activity. The lava flow took a break the day before we arrived but we had already planned to use the two days focusing on Hawaii's endemic birds. Unusual as it may sound, our first day was planned around visiting an art gallery. This is an art gallery located within walking distance of the crater's rim in this part of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
It’s a small gallery but it always takes more time than you have allowed to see its treasures. Hawaii attracts artists of all kinds. From paintings to photographs and from exquisite wood carvings to ceramic pieces of art, you need to take your time wandering through the displays. Regular exhibits by local artists are why the gallery exists. This winter the work of Marian Berger have drawn a lot of attention.
Her paintings of thirty-three species of birds found only in Hawaii made up the exhibit that started on Jan. 8 and ends today. The originals require so much room that this small gallery is showing them in two parts. However, a centerpiece of the exhibit was one of the full, double-elephant folio size (26-by-39.5 inches) books. A docent would go through the book with visitors and explain or answer any questions about each painting, each bird. Our docent had an interested audience in the four of us who had to share our experiences with some of the birds.
The vision of Berger’s project was to produce a limited edition masterpiece in the style of John James Audubon. It is a way to support critical work that will assure the survival of Hawaii’s remaining endemic birds. Many others are already extinct. Her paintings are patterned after Audubon’s great work, “Birds of North America,” where each bird was painted life-size.
Funding for this project was underwritten by an anonymous patron who has agreed to donate the proceeds of the original collection to support Hawaii’s endemic birds.
Funds will go to the San Diego Zoo’s Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program. Government agencies, private organizations and individual land owners are involved in this ongoing project.
There are two captive breeding programs, one on the Big Island and one on Maui, as well as a number of field sites throughout Hawaii. Breeding in captivity the birds that are in danger of becoming extinct is producing favorable results. Since 1993, the program has successfully raised more than 1,000 fledglings for releasing back into the wild.
Marian Berger is considered one of Hawaii’s treasures. She was born in Ireland and, as a daughter of a meteorologist, spent her early childhood on Wake Island. She inherited her father’s love of science, her mother’s artistic ability and the mutual love they shared for the outdoors. She moved to Hawaii in 1976 to become one of the state’s most-acknowledged artists. Her list of credits is long and she is known for donating much of the profits of her work to organizations such as the Hawaii Nature Conservancy.
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