Visitors to Parker Ranch Center in Waimea are greeted with a series of expansive murals by Hawai’i Island Artist Marcia Ray. Commissioned in the late 1990’s, these works portray ranch life and paniolo culture in a unique and colorful way, backed by Marcia’s dedicated research and artistic curiosity.
The following is an excerpt from the July-August 2018 issue of Ke Ola magazine.
“Murals for me are the most important, because they are painted to tell a story,” says Waimea artist Marcia Ray. Four of her murals, and their stories, are stretched across the upper walls of Parker Ranch Center’s Fireside Food Court: panorama-wide paintings of paniolo (cowboy) life. One, The Line-Up is a shoulder-to-shoulder string of 30 mounted cowboys in the foothills of Maunakea.
The paintings were created for the center’s re-opening in 2001. “One of the trustees said they wanted murals that represent Parker Ranch,” says Marcia. “They had a four-inch photo, and asked me ‘Can you paint this 24 feet wide?ʻ” She laughs at the memory, “I actually went to Human Resources [at Parker Ranch] to research the faces of the guys, the hats they might be wearing, their shirts, their horses.”
Helping her with this daunting project was retired Parker paniolo Jiro Yamaguchi, son of the first Japanese cowboy hired by Parker Ranch.
“Jiro would come by my studio. He loved the project,” says Marcia. “He’d say, ‘You know Massha, that stirrup is too long,’ or ‘That saddle is wrong, the spur is wrong.’ I told him, ‘Jiro, you’re my guru.’”
“The Line Up” – courtesy Marcia Ray
Marcia also interviewed community members and collected photographs from the 1920s forward. The finished product took two years to complete, and the result is more of a story than the four-inch picture could ever tell of those proud paniolo on horseback, with names people may remember, since many are related to the families dining in the food court today. “What happened was so wonderful,” says Marcia. “I really got to know the paniolo families and share their stories.”
The entire project encompassed four 24’ x 4’ murals, and 28 smaller paintings. When the murals were unveiled for the first time, Marcia remembers, “I was happy that I had enough room to paint the whole thing! That’s why I love painting big, on the Big Island. Most often, when I paint something with the mountain, I always run out of room.”
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