The return of Hokule‘a and Hikianalia to Hawai‘i on June 22 was celebrated throughout the islands. For the museum, it also meant the return of an artist whose work will be one of the museum’s three new exhibitions at First Hawaiian Center opening Nov. 16. Hawaii Island–based artist and navigator Hana Yoshihata was part of the Hikianalia crew on the canoe’s last Malama Honua leg from Tahiti to O‘ahu. Hana was also on the Hokule‘a for her journey from Virginia to New York City.

Her experiences on Polynesian voyaging canoes are essential to the making of her abstract works on paper. Living without modern luxuries while surrounded by ocean and sky, Hana has developed a deep awareness of nature’s patterns and natural phenomena. While on board, she keeps a journal of descriptions and impressions that occur to her. Back in her studio, she reads over her notes, which spark visual memories that she uses to create her pieces.

Working on sheets of paper placed flat on a floor or table, she applies seawater, fresh water, ink and paint, and allows them to flow, mix, and dry freely. Afterwards she may go back to the work with a small brush, to create linear patterns and forms. The result is a sensual, layered surface, sometimes with salt-crystal formations, evoking coastal and submerged topography, or the vastness of the night sky.

Seeing her exhibition Between Ocean and Sky: Hana Yoshihata, opening Nov. 30, will bring back thoughts of Hōkūle‘a and the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s epic accomplishment all over again.