KAHULUI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Maui artist is creating an eye-catching new mural at the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center in Kahului.
The painting is a way to bridge the past and the present, while honoring the sacrifices of the highly-decorated soldiers.
“When I met some of these men and I hear their stories, met their families, I started to feel that pressure,” said artist Kirk Kurokawa. “It’s important. The things that they did are amazing.”
Kurokawa, 44, painted former Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s official portrait.
For this latest creation, Kurokawa is working outdoors and dealing with rain, scorching temperatures, and harsh winds that broke a tent and an umbrella he used for shade. There are also other challenges for the oil painter.
“Now I’m painting with house paint, exterior house paint, and there’s a little bit of a color shift as the paint dries,” said Kurokawa. “It dries a little bit darker than what I’m used to.”
The artist began working on the wall in March, projecting photos from the center’s archives onto the wall. After finishing the outlines, he started bringing the pictures to life, slightly altering the soldiers’ features.
"We're trying to represent all of them, not specific people," said Kurokawa. "We're trying to just be inclusive and it's for all of the veterans."
His painstaking work on 12 different scenes is already attracting a lot of attention.
"Everyone just kind of stops in awe and is amazed, but they also get a really strong feeling and emotion of gratitude, of humility," said Jill Tokuda, the center's executive director.
Kurokawa hopes that each brush stroke helps to ensure that the soldiers’ actions are never forgotten.
"It's not in a gallery. It's not in a museum. It's out in the public. Anybody can come and see it. Anybody can enjoy it and everybody can take away what they can take away from it," he said.
The artist hopes to finish the tribute in July.
“At the end of the day, it was about the values that our Nisei had, to go and sacrifice and fight bravely,” said Tokuda. “It’s a continuation of those values and that legacy.”