For the first time, Haleakala National Park’s unknown birds and flowers will be on display for visitors, islanders and conservationists.
“Splendor of the Natural World" features the velvet blooms of the cyanea flower and the white-tailed tropic bird launching into flight.
Unfortunately, some of these scenes may now only exist on canvas. The po‘ouli bird was last seen on Haleakala in 2004. The black-faced bird is one of the eight Hawaiian forest bird species that disappeared during the lifetime of Maui artist and Haleakala National Park ranger Melissa Chimera.
“I painted the po`ouli so that world would never forget the face of extinction—of what was irrevocably lost—despite heroic last ditch efforts by biologists,” Chimera said.
Artists have always played a pivotal role in conservation. The first European naturalists in Hawai`i were also artists cataloging unique island species never before seen by Westerners. Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran's grand oil paintings of Yellowstone and Yosemite hung in the walls of Congress, convincing lawmakers to protect a fragile legacy by establishing the National Park Service.
Chimera follows this long tradition as both ranger and artist. Chimera is the park’s volunteer coordinator. Each year, she helps hundreds of local and mainland volunteers contribute to park operations. She also exhibits nationally and internationally.
The large-format paintings first premiered in Honolulu at the Hawai`i Conservation Conference earlier this year.
Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum felt it only natural to display the work where it could inspire visitors.
“I was thrilled at the park's invitation to bring these paintings home,” Chimera said.
While Haleakala’s first-ever art opening on December 2nd was by invitation only, these canvases can now be seen daily throughout the spring of 2012 at park headquarters.