Darren Waterston: FOREST EATER
at The Honolulu Contemporary Art Museum
May 26-August 28, 2011
“Forest Eater,” conceived specifically for the HCAM, explores the mystical and phenomenological aspects of volcanoes. The exhibition title refers to the Hawaiian legend of Pele--ancient goddess of fire, lightning, and volcanoes--who still holds a prominent place in the collective imagination of many contemporary Hawaiians. Pele represents both the destructive and creative forces of all volcanic activity, simultaneously taking and giving life. She is Ka wahine ‘ai honua: “the woman who devours the land.”
The paintings move between abstracted and pictorial representations of Pele and the Hawaiian landscape, depicting not a tropical paradise but a more evocative, haunting portrait of the islands. Nocturnal scenes of volcanic activity, ashen environments, and ghostly mountain forms cast a menacing shadow on the Big Island of Hawaii, where according to legend, Pele resides in Mount Kilauea. The paintings make reference to Hawaii’s specific geography and also explore the bodily manifestations of Pele as described in the poetic classification of certain volcanic formations such as Pele’s Hair and Pele’s Tears.
“Forest Eater,” with its many allegorical and symbolic references, comprises approximately fifty paintings and works on paper and four site-specific sculptures. The largest of the sculptures is “Wrath,” a forbidding eighteen-foot long vertical lava formation, hanging from the museum’s ceiling.