|Hawaiian Artist Crafts Evanston Spirit |
By Brian Cox
September 11, 2009
|Hawaiian artist Johnnie “Keoni” Durant wields his chain saw with the precision of a surgeon as he straddles two stepladders, carefully shaping an 8-foot “tiki sculpture” from a tree trunk on the Evanston lakefront.|
Durant, 49, said he was inspired to start carving the tiki sculpture this summer, soon after arriving in Evanston, where he is visiting friends. He said he was so impressed with the natural beauty of the lakefront and the friendliness of the people that he wanted to create something that celebrated both.
Photo by Andrew A. Nelles
|“I felt a lot of love here,” he said. “I want to give something back.”|
On Saturday at 2 p.m., Durant will hold a traditional Hawaiian dedication ceremony and blessing of the tiki at Dawes Park and will talk to people about the sculpture and the rich history associated with it.
“It really sounds like it’s going to be an interesting piece of art,” said Martha Logan with Evanston’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department. “We’re all wondering what it will look like when it’s done.”
A tiki is a large wood or stone carving that embodies the human figure and represents a deep connection to the spiritual realm, Durant said. He said tikis were placed at temples and in and around homes to remind ancient Hawaiians of their values. He said the sculptures represent respect for family, appreciation of nature and belief in the power of knowledge.
Durant is incorporating the City of Evanston seal into the base of the sculpture, which city officials said is tentatively slated to be displayed at the Ladd Arboretum and Ecology Center at 2024 McCormick Blvd.
“My vision is that someday the lakefront will have many sculptures,” Durant said. “If people are feeling down and tired, they can walk through the park and will be filled with energy.”
Durant, who is well-known in Hawaii for his tikis and handcrafted jewelry, has been carving tikis for 25 years. Wearing the helmet of a Hawaiian high chief, the Evanston tiki represents the spirit of sportsmanship and recreation, Durant said.
“It is not an idol,” he said. “It represents the spiritual realm.”
The tiki is being carved from the trunk of a 107-year-old white oak tree that at one time stood near the Evanston Lighthouse.
Durant said a tiki takes about a month to complete. He starts with a chain saw, roughly shaping the body, helmet and face, then completes it using hand chisels.