A new statue has sparked confusion and questions from people who visited Liliuokalani Park and Gardens recently.
Hilo artist Henry Bianchini created and donated a bronze statue called Ho‘omalule ‘Upena Kiloi, or Metamorphosis of a Net Fisherman.
That statue depicts a fisherman that has metamorphosed into a fish. According to Bianchini, the fisherman is emerging out of the water while holding a net of fish as an offering to the community.
The statue was erected on Feb. 23, but the plaque describing the piece of art has not been created or installed yet.
Hawaii County Parks and Recreation Department accepted the donation from Bianchini and helped decide where the statue would be placed in the popular Hilo park.
“Henry approached the administration with the idea of donating the piece, and the parks staff assisted him in scouting the location,” said Maurice Messina, director of Parks and Recreation. “Members of the park staff who knew the history of the area helped decide the exact location.”
The location of the statue is on a grassy area of the park where fishermen would often use nets to fish, which is depicted in the statue.
“The statue has a fish head, because the fisherman is so into his work that he becomes it, just as anyone does with their passion,” Bianchini said. “He’s coming up out of the water to give the fish to the people.”
Bianchini created the statue to commemorate his life in Hilo and express his gratitude to the Hawaiian host culture that has given him so much.
“I wanted to make an offering to the people who have helped shape my life and art,” Bianchini said. “I have so much love for Hilo Bay, which is why I never left after I sailed in.”
Bianchini and a shipmate James Olsen sailed into Hilo Bay on Aug. 21, 1969, on a 30-foot self-built trimaran. Together, they witnessed the Mauna Ulu eruption after 19 days at sea.
After witnessing the beauty of the island and creating relationships in Hilo, Bianchini grew his career in art and his family on Hawaii Island. He has several art commissions across the state and also created the King David Kalakaua statue in Kalakaua Park.
The artistic tone of the statue is different than the other features within the Japanese gardens, generating some criticism from frequent users of the park.
Many people on social media commented that the statue is out of place or an unnecessary addition to the park, while others simply don’t like the look of the unusual piece.
A picture of the unfinished statue was posted on the Facebook page, “U know u from Hilo wen,” which caused an influx of nearly 500 comments — many of them negative.
“Art is a subjective endeavor by the artist for the viewer, not a subject that agrees with me. I’m trying to find a “local” aspect to it’s look. Can’t. Like the statue of Duke Kahanamoku in Waikiki, it should face the ocean,” commented Rory Murata on the Facebook page.
“It doesn’t really fit in with the vibe at Liliuokalani but to each their own,” commented Kristin Lowder.
Some commenters figured there was a deeper meaning to the statue and did not want to judge it right away.
“Hmmmm, I know a few people go to that location to “throw net” to collect fresh fish and such to feed their families.. maybe that’s what it’s portraying?.. I guess we’d need to ask the artist who created this unique sculpture,” Lynn Kihara commented.
Although there are some that do not like the piece or its placement, Messina continues to appreciate the donation and is looking forward to working with Bianchini in the future.
“Sometimes abstract art is hard to understand when you don’t know the full background of the piece,” Messina said. “I think once people know why its here and why it was created, they might change their minds.”
Email Kelsey Walling at firstname.lastname@example.org