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Kaanapali Beach Club unveils King Kamehameha statue

By Staff | Dec 26, 2013

Maui artist Caleb O’Connor created the statue of King Kamehameha that was unveiled at Kaanapali Beach Club on Dec. 19. PHOTO BY PAUL JANES-BROWN.

WEST MAUI – After a year of planning and design, and ten months of construction, the porte-cochere and Lokelani Garden at the Kaanapali Beach Club opened on Dec. 19. General Manager Jim Hunsacker introduced the team responsible for the project at a blessing ceremony attended by a large crowd of guests, visitors and friends.

In attendance were the project’s designer, Senior Landscape Architect David Sereda of Chris Hart & Partners, Troy Bentley from Layton Construction and artist Caleb O’Connor.

Kumu Kekoa Yap conducted the blessing of the porte-cochere and the new garden that features Maui’s only second statue of King Kamehameha. After the maile was untied and blessing completed, the public was invited to enjoy the new garden with its lovely walkway, a foot bridge over a water feature and the statue.

Kumu Yap was responsible for the statue’s orientation. King Kamehameha does not face out from the building. He faces the ocean, which Kumu Yap felt was the most appropriate.

The koi pond, which used to be where the garden is, was leaking and causing damage to the basement parking garage of the landmark pink hotel. The hotel owner, Diamond Resorts, issued a request for proposals, and Chris Hart & Partners was selected.

Kumu Kekoa Yap conducted the blessing of the porte-cochere and the new garden that features the statue. PHOTO BY PAUL JANES-BROWN.

Sereda’s vision was to create an inviting, tranquil space for guests to enter and to enjoy. Included in that vision was a statue, perhaps of a hula dancer. However, Diamond Resorts founder and Chairman Stephen J. Cloobeck wanted a statue of King Kamehameha. He also wanted the work to be done by a local artist.

Sereda knew Maui artist O’Connor, the winner of Art Maui 2007, a Baldwin High School graduate and Jan Sato protg. After four years in Chicago, O’Connor relocated to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when he was given a commission to memorialize the history of Western Alabama. In the fall of 2011, he completed sixteen 14-foot by nine-foot panels for the $52 million federal courthouse.

Sereda contacted two Maui artists, two Honolulu artists and a Californian before settling on O’Connor, and the Californian asked them for proposals.

The opportunity to return home was too good to pass up, and O’Connor submitted the winning proposal. Since O’Connor has secured public commissions, he has changed his artistic focus. He said, “I always wanted to do public art. It’s food for the soul and the spirit.”

He said that Cloobeck wanted him to duplicate the famous statues of the king in Honolulu, the Big Island and Washington, D.C. O’Connor looked at these works, two of which were done by Thomas Gould, a 19th century, Boston-based sculptor who also spent time in Florence, Italy. O’Connor was not impressed with the European depiction of the king.

He researched the background of the statue and found that Gould had used Julius Caesar as his model for the king – that’s why he is depicted left-handed. Caesar was a southpaw.

O’Connor wanted his statue of Kamehameha to be a Hawaiian. He submitted several drawings to Cloobeck and, as fate would have it, Cloobeck selected a youthful, warrior Kamehameha, which O’Connor revealed was his favorite. “Maybe it was a better drawing than the others,” the artist joked.

The bronze statue, which is 850 pounds and stands 7’2″ tall, took three months to fabricate and was completed by a foundry in Union City, Georgia. The king is depicted in motion, a spear in his right hand, and he is cloaked and wearing a helmet similar to all of the other statues. However, the face of the king is much closer to what he looked like, and his body is one of a swimmer and paddler.

O’Connor wants to come back home. That would be possible if he is selected by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts for commissions to create tributes to both Sen. Daniel Inouye and Rep. Patsy Mink. In the meantime, his bronze waits to greet visitors and guests to the Kaanapali Beach Club.