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Moiliili--The Life of a Community

Edited by Laura Ruby


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Artwork -- Laura Ruby


            Laura Ruby is the 2008 Hawaii State Individual Artist Fellowship recipient.

            In 1995 Laura Ruby exhibited her "Nancy Drew Series" of prints and an installation sculpture, The Mystery of the Open Book, at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. The series has also been exhibited in Georgia, Nebraska, Texas, Iowa, Ohio, New York, at the Ramsay Galleries in Honolulu in 2000, and at the Honolulu Academy of Arts in 2005. Her essay and selections of her prints from the "Nancy Drew Series" are published in Rediscovering Nancy Drew (University of Iowa Press, 1995). 

            In 1994 she completed a large site-specific sculpture, Chinatown–Site of Passage, commissioned by the City and County of Honolulu. She also received a grant from the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions to create and exhibit an installation sculpture, A View with a Room, at the Hawaii Loa College Gallery. 

             Recently her prints and sculptures have been shown in national and international juried and invitational exhibitions in Pennsylvania, Washington, Illinois, Minnesota, Louisiana, Texas, New York, Kansas, California, Wisconsin, Oregon, Japan and elsewhere. Currently her print Landed Committee–Annexation, part of her ongoing “Diamond Head Series,” is included in the inaugural exhibition at the Hawai‘i State Art Museum, and she was one of the Invitational Artists for 2003 in the “Artists of Hawai‘i” exhibition held annually at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

              Moiliili–The Life of a Community, edited by Laura Ruby, was published in January 2006. Honolulu Town will be published in May 2012.

               She has been teaching at the University of Hawai‘i since 1977.









Stage Set--Mise en Scène



Mixed Media Site-Specific Sculpture
27 feet by 80 feet by 50 feet
Honolulu Community College
874 Dillingham Boulevard
Honolulu, Hawaii 96817

Commissioned by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts
This site-specific sculpture is conceived with the following themes and design components: it is an architectural and theatrical space which invites participation by viewers walking through and around, or sitting leisurely, and possible performers, actors, musicians or dancers. The overall design also refers to stage or cinematic set design--mise en scène--which is always human scale and participatory.
In terms of the site-specific nature of my sculpture various components make particular reference to features of the Honolulu Community College campus and Iwilei neighborhood. For example, the blue rectangular terrazzo "stream" refers to the nearby Kapalama Canal; the bridge refers to the Dillingham Bridge over the canal; the arches have reference to the Library Building and to the small arch details on the Dillingham Bridge; and the five stylized pineapples relate to the giant cannery water tower.
Some of the specific design elements include: an interconnected sequence of arches, a tower, bridge, and stairway on raised platforms. This work also contains such specific features as a flag and curved connecting cables. One the ground plane, besides the stylized pineapples, is a geometric design comprised of brick, terrazzo and grass patterns. Some of the materials are: colored concrete, brass plate, aluminum plate, stainless steel cable, terrazzo, Alapai Bus Barn bricks, ceramic tile and emerald zoysia grass.




Site of Passage--Chinatown
Site of Passage--Chinatown 1

Site of Passage--Chinatown 2


Mixed Media Site-Specific Sculpture
19 feet by 76 feet by 21 feet
Marin Tower
61 North Nimitz Boulevard
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Commissioned by the City and County of Honolulu


This site-specific sculpture features the Honolulu Chinatown and waterfront neighborhood, including its history and physical structures. The sculpture has visual allusions to Nuuanu Stream bridges, here in Chinatown red; profiles and rooflines of nearby buildings; and shapes of doorways, windows and awnings in the community.
The locale includes the busy port, a site of passage, and visual references include ship forms, portholes and even the honu (green sea turtles) that swam there.
The sculpture also honors Don Francisco de Paula Marin of Spain, trader, seafarer and trusted business associate for Kamehameha I. Marin's Hawaiian name was Manini and this location of his home was previously known as Kou. Marin brought the first mangos to Hawaii, and his wine grapes gave the name to nearby Vineyard Street.





Ceramic Site-Specific Sculpture
15 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet
University of Hawaii--Hilo
200 West Kawili Street
Hilo, Hawaii 96720
Commissioned by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts


This sculpture is entitled "Cromlech"--that's a Welsh word meaning a type of stone monument. Stone monuments have been built in all parts of the world for thousands of years. Throughout the world people would place stones upon stones sometimes for religious purposes--to make a temple--or to mark a sacred place--or to make tombs, places of rest for the dead--or to make walls marking sacred places as in places of refuge for the weary or defeated warrior. Stone monuments were also used as meeting places for community festivals and sometimes even for scientific purposes, as astronomical calendars. An example of the latter is the famous Stonehenge monument in Britain.
Such stone structures whether as temples, heiau, tombs, gathering places or calendars often had an artistic purpose also. That is, they were made as visually interesting as possible. So whatever else they were, they were also sculptures.
This particular sculpture by Laura Ruby refers to man's historical natural instinct to place stone upon stone for religious, scientific or artistic purposes. In this sculpture, the progression of rough and craggy stones on one side to smooth geometric stones on the other reflects man's mastery and control of materials from ancient times to the modern machine age.
On the surfaces of the sculpture are figures showing men and women engaged in various work activities--carrying water, sowing seeds, tending animals, hunting, fishing and others.


"Nancy Drew Series"

  The Haunted Bridge   The Clue of the Leaning Chimney   The Clue in the Jewel Box
  The Hidden Staircase   The Secret of the Golden Pavilion   The Secret of Red Gate Farm
  The Clue in the Old Album   The Bungalow Mystery   The Secret of the Old Clock
  The Secret at Shadow Ranch   The Witch Tree Symbol   The Secret in the Old Attic
  The Mystery at Lilac Inn   The Message in the Hollow Oak   The Whispering Statue
  The Mystery of the Ivory Charm   The Mystery at the Moss Covered Mansion   The Password to Larkspur Lane
  The Secret of the Wooden Lady   The Clue in the Crumbling Wall   The Clue of the Tapping Heels
  The Mystery of the Fire Dragon   Nancy's Mysterious Letter   The Hidden Window Mystery
  The Mystery of the Tolling Bell   The Quest of the Missing Map   The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk
  The Sign of the Twisted Candles   The Clue of the Broken Locket   The Clue of the Black Keys
  The Ghost of Blackwood Hall   The Clue in the Diary      

My "Nancy Drew Series" of screenprints takes as its primary reference the fictional detective, Nancy Drew, the subject of an extremely popular series of books in American culture. The character Nancy Drew represents the independence and problem-solving intelligence of the detective figure, while also alluding to the independence, creativity and determination of the artist. The first obvious punning relationship is in the name, Drew, but the series of prints employs both playful and serious multiple visual and verbal interactions in its concept and design.The multiple levels of visual/verbal interplay incorporate references to the tools and processes of art making, including allusions to numerous codes and sign systems. For example, The Clue of the Black Keys contains historical and contemporary musical notational systems (including Chopin's "Black Key Étude") and a typewriter schema; while The Clue of the Tapping Heels contains Morse code and The Secret of the Brass Bound Trunk includes semaphore. Each individual print, of course, includes far more imagery and conceptual material in addition to these notational systems, and as a series the prints have much interplay and interaction of concept and imagery. Other subject matter includes such popular culture elements as comedy films, mystery films, popular music and others.My "Nancy Drew Series" encourages viewer involvement in the search for clues and understanding. One major theme of the series is the acknowledging of the artist/detective as maker and the viewer as an involved participant in the detection.

"Nancy Drew Series" Installations --



"Diamond Head Series"

  Ahupua'a at Diamond Head   Bones at Diamond Head      
  Camouflage at Diamond Head--for Ray Jerome Baker   Cape Diamond Head   Celestial Navigation    
  Diamond Head--Kahala Side   Division at Diamond Head I   Division at Diamond Head II    
  Film Crew at Diamond Head   Fleeting Currency--Sandalwood   Geologic Leahi--Diamond Head    
  Keala o Kahiki--The Way to Tahiti--From Diamond Head   Laeahi--Diamond Head   Landed Committee--Annexation    
  Looking Diamond Head   Mahele at Diamond Head   Menehune--Kauwa    
  Mynahs at Diamond Head   Civil Defense at Diamond Head   Na Maka Uhi    
  Oracle at Diamond Head   Overview of Diamond Head   Diamond Head Profiles    
  The Return of Portlock to Diamond Head   Sandalwood Trade   Station Easy--Diamond Head    
  Twilight at Necker   The Voyage of Captain Cook   Night Marchers at Diamond Head    
  Conch at Diamond Head   The Artifacts   Tunnel at Diamond Head    
  'O'o at Diamond Head   Mongoose Elevated at Diamond Head   Live Fire at Diamond Head    
  Pukas at Diamond Head   'I'iwi at Diamond Head   Elevation and Azimuth at Diamond Head    
  Buoy at Diamond Head   Annexation at Necker   Golden Rule Bazaar    
  Na Maka o ka 'Aina   Na Maka Ki'i   Lahilahi Webb Greets na Ki'i    
  Na Ki'i No ka Po                


Diamond Head is one of the most recognizable landmarks on earth--a dormant, if not extinct, volcano, known in Hawaiian as Laeahi. Laeahi is comprised of lae which means both forehead and headland, and ahi, both a yellowfin tuna and fire. One of the recurring images in this series of screenprints and mixed media prints is the geological profile of Diamond Head as the dorsal fin of an ahi. The visual forms of these prints--my artistic choices--derive from my fascination with this volcanic cone's entire cultural history. They include ancient Hawaiian lore and mythology, as well as contemporary governmental and military uses of Diamond Head. In exploring this cultural history, these prints contain allusions to the mythological origins of the Hawaiian people, their emblematic bringer of peace, Lono, and their warrior god Ku. Contemporary manifestation of this ancient theme might be seen in the sharp contrast between the astonishing physical beauty and peacefulness of Diamond Head, on the one hand, and the numerous twentieth century military structures--concrete bunkers, remnants of gun emplacements, tunnels, and hidden stairways throughout the crater. The arbitrary appropriations of land and exploitation of people and animals in Hawai'i also appear in my work. Some victims of these cultural processes, for example, are the 'i'iwi and 'o'o, beautiful now extinct birds, sacrificed for capes and other ornaments. The enlightened Hawaiian land division, ahupua'a gave people access to both land and sea, but ultimately restricted people's movements and fractured the islands. Diamond Head has been divided, arbitrarily broken up, and scarred by its various controllers and possessors, just as the Hawaiian land itself has been. Thus, my prints include the recurrent theme of mahele, the Hawaiian division of land, or general shattering of space.

"Diamond Head Series" Installation Sculptures

Hustling Sandalwood
mixed media installation sculpture

This sculpture uses a fractured pool table, an elitist luxury item desired by Hawaiian ali'i, to exemplify the triangular sandalwood trade between New England traders and manufacturers and Chinese merchants. Highly valued sandalwood was produced by the labor of the maka'ainana commoners of Hawai'i. The sculpture alludes to the depleted, denuded and eroded fractured landscape of the Hawaiian Islands. A pool table also implies elements of chance in this serious economic game, as well as the more controlled hustle of the lucrative sandalwood trade.
Moah Moa
mixed media installation sculpture
My installation sculpture Moah Moa (moa is the Hawaiian word for chicken and "moah" is local pidgin for "more") intends to be a cultural and political statement about how hate-mongering and fear-mongering in the name of Hawaiian sovereignty rebounds against those with the harshest rhetoric. "The chickens have come home to roost" was spurred by the infamous statement by Malcolm X when President Kennedy was killed. Huli means to turn, to turn over like a cresting wave, or in common parlance, "huli huli chicken" means specially grilled/roasted chicken usually for fund-raisers.

Last modified: May, 2013