ʻAlalā, Unbound Dreams by Cheri Groom
Media: cold wax, charcoal, and plaster
This painting was created using highest quality artist’s cold wax medium, along with innovations using loose charcoal and plaster. Artists have painted using beeswax as an additive to pigments since the 1st century B.C. and possibly longer. In modern times, beeswax formulas for painting are called ‘cold wax’ to distinguish it from heated wax techniques such as encaustics.
The painting depicts the Hawaiian Crow, or ‘alalā (Corvus hawaiiensis), one of the world’s most endangered bird species. At one time the number of individuals dwindled to only 31, but captive breeding efforts and ongoing reintroduction projects seek to help these creatures gain a foothold in their wild forest habitats.
The ‘alalā plays several roles in Hawaiian culture. It is said to guide the dead to their final resting place. As one of the nā ‘aumakua, an individual crow may serve in the role of a special protector to an individual or family as the embodiment of a venerated ancestor.
Cheri provides the following insight into this work of art: “Here, I use charcoal to capture the moody nature of the sky and minimalist background, connecting both to the form of the ‘alalā itself. Symbolic repetitive “cage” shapes represent the ‘alalā’s present survival in the necessary captive breeding programs that hope to save this creature from extinction. The crow regards the skies, knowing that is his true home. The title refers to the shared dream of once again seeing this creature restored to live an unbound life in the skies and wild forest spaces of Hawai’i Island. In the background, note the eclipse shapes. Such shapes have been used through art history to symbolize divinity. I have included this as a nod to the deity nature of the ‘alalā as an important ‘aumakua in Hawaiian tradition. The ephemeral glaze appearance of the painting is due to the patient application of many layers of both tinted and clear cold wax, leaving each layer to ‘cure’ for some time before subsequent layers are applied. The final sealing wax surface, once cured, has been buffed to enhance texture and deepen the luminosity.”