Part of the ‘Ike Ho’omaopopo series
© 2005 by Artist LeoHone
I have painted since I was a small child but would not be ready for this special calling until 1999.
Something happened to me in 1992 that would alter the course of my art career. I had painted a 4′ x 7′ painting in 1990 of angels standing guard over a homeless man as he slept beneath a stained glass window. There’s a beautiful stained glass window of Jacob’s dream where the angels descended down the ladder from heaven at St. Andrew’s Cathedral. While I was the Associate Organist there, I often sat on the organ bench and could just barely glimpse this beautiful window when the casement window was open to the Nave. The painting subsequently hung in the hallway of the office building of St. Andrew’s Cathedral.
One Sunday morning after the service at the coffee hour with forty or fifty people milling around, a stranger came up to greet me. It wasn’t unusual for me to have people seek me out to discuss the painting so I wasn’t surprised when this man commented about the painting hanging in the office building.
“You’ve been given a gift,” he said and I nodded in silence. “Your gift is your eyes.” This was suddenly very different than anything that anyone else had ever said to me.
“You have been given the gift to see and you must be very careful with what you paint.”
There was a kindness in his eyes but his words were very serious, as though he were charging me to paint nothing frivolous because of the weight a picture’s message would carry. I listened carefully, exchanged words of farewell, and turned to where my friend was standing behind me – only an arm’s length away. “Oh, wait! I want you to meet…” I cried out and turning back toward him, was stunned to see no one there. There had been no time at all for him to go anywhere. He just was nowhere.
Eventually, I confided to my friend what I had experienced and he said, “You think you talked to an angel, don’t you?”
It left me afraid to paint anything without strong meaning and afraid to paint something that might not represent my faith and my values. I didn’t paint for the next six years.
Then one day in the winter of 1999, I had to play the organ for a service at Kawaiaha’o Church. I found myself strongly drawn to the ali’i portraits on the balcony. For the next hour, I wandered around the balcony alone, stopping beneath each portrait, somehow trying to see more deeply into the painting than just the surface. The eyes were all turned away and it seemed that each figure was faded and unreal. I wanted more. I wanted a connection. I wanted to be genuinely moved by the images. As I studied the portrait of Liliu’okalani, Hawai’i last reigning monarch, it weighed on me that I should paint a painting that would bring her to life and let her speak again of her peaceful and forgiving ways. I knew that the time had come for me to paint again.
In her own words of her prayer set to music (for she was a wonderful composer), written while being held captive in Iolani Palace, she penned a paraphrase of Christ’s own words from the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Below is the English translation of Queen Lili’uokalani’s song, “O Kou Aloha No”:
Your love is there in heaven, and your truth is filled with sanctity.
As I reflect on wrongs in my imprisonment, You are my light, your glory my support.
Look not negatively upon the sins of men, but forgive, that we shall be pure.
Therefore, O Lord, beneath your wings shall be our peace, now and forever.
This was so much a part of why I began this series: ‘Ike Ho’omaopopo, which I now call my mission.