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Art: Pele by Artist john christopher borrero

This piece was created for the 2004 Ripped Off Show, and it is a rip of Dawn Lee Thompson’s “Polynesian Portrait”. When I saw it, I immediately thought of Pele.

Pele is the Hawaiian goddess of volcanos. In Hawaiian chants, she is described as "She-Who-Shapes-The-Sacred-Land". Appropriately, she is passionate, volatile, and capricious, and the most visible of all the old Hawaiian gods and goddesses.

As legend has it, Pele traveled across the entire chain of Hawaiian islands searching for a home for herself and eventually landed on the Big Island's Mauna Loa, which is considered the tallest mountain on earth when measured from its base at the bottom of the ocean. She established her home on its slopes and lives in the craters of the Big Island's Kilauea Volcano, from which she has been sending ribbons of fiery lava down the mountainside, adding new land around the southeastern shore almost continuously since 1983.

Pele is known for her violent temper, but also for her common visits among mortals. She is said to appear either as a tall, beautiful young woman or as a very old, ugly and frail woman. She is often accompanied by a white dog and typically tests people, rewarding the kind and punishing the cruel or disrespectful. Pele also loves attending social dances, and is known for great jealousy and vengeance when she doesn't get her man. She is considered a protector of the Hawaiian people. Her fiery temper, and passion are well-documented in myth, as are the many accounts Pele’s romantic pursuits. Most of the lovers the volcano goddess took were not lucky enough to escape with their lives but are said to be trapped in the odd misshapen pillars of rock that dot volcanic fields to this day. People who live on the islands-whether Christian, Buddhist, Shinto, or other-speak respectfully of the ancient goddess who has destroyed more than 100 structures on the Big Island since 1983, and added more than 70 acres of land to the island's southeastern coastline.

I made an attempt to honor Dawn’s inspiring work in stained glass by adding found stained glass bits to this piece (I knew those would come in handy one day!) and also playing with symmetry more than I usually do, to speak to the sense of order and composure that I love about Dawn’s work… Thank you Dawn for allowing me to work with your piece, and explore your imagery to bring Pele to life.

Detail Image

Detail Image for art Pele

Dawn's Polynesian Portrait


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