Jeanne Bitz's story — healing through Hawai'i

    From left to right: Natalie Young, Joëlle Perz, Jeanne Bitz, Oliver Perz, and Rebecca Hamon stand in front of Hōkūleʻa after a dockside canoe tour. (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Jeanne Bitz is a painter and sculptor in Maui, Hawai'i.

    She traveled to Juneau with her family to celebrate Hōkūleʻa's arrival and launch.

    Bitz used to live in Southeast Alaska. She provided News of the North with her artistic perspective of the Moananuiākea voyage.

    Her story is one of healing through art.

    "I was raised in an extreme domestic violence upbringing and background in Petersburg, Alaska where we lived. I think that a lot of our interactions with our environment are a bit similar to a domestic violence arrangement where we don't ask permission, and we don't come into our environment. A lot of times we just take, take, take," she said. "I love that about the Hawaiian culture, that they've shifted to be learning, to be at one with the environment. It's something that I think was absolutely beautiful, being invited into that. To participate in that has been very healing."

    Bitz shared which Hawaiian symbols she incorporates into her oil paintings.

    "I've been learning the language of the oceanic cultures. There's a symbol that's the Marquesan cross. It's all about being in peace with the elements, being at one with our environment, and finding emotional balance in our environment. That's what that one symbol encompasses. I just love that," she said. "Then there's one swirl, but it's a swirl intertwined with a couple of other swirls. That's the Hawaiian symbol for speed. My daughter and I paddle OC6s, the Hawaiian outrigger voyaging canoes. When you look in the water, and especially when we've paddled in the dark sometimes and the phosphorescence is lighting up with every stroke, it makes that exact symbol. So, the Hawaiian symbol for speed is the exact symbol that's made by each paddle."

    Another medium Bitz enjoys is sculpting.

    Above: Bitz also created a postcard to help spread Moananuiākea's message. (Photo courtesy of Bitz)

    "One of the pieces that I did of the Hōkūleʻa already has Moananuiākea, which is the name of the voyage, Voyage for the Planet. It shows the Johns Hopkins glacier because they had just come by that," she said. "When people send a postcard, they're on a travel, they're on a journey and they're sending a message to somebody that they care about. That's what the Hōkūleʻa is doing is sending a message to all of us because they care about all of us and the planet."

    She also shared her experiences of being immersed in Hawaiian culture and how it influences her artwork.

    "E Ala E is one of the first paintings I did in the series. I had been invited to join the Hawaiian Outrigger Voyaging Canoe Society and paddle with them. Understanding this method of working together and this healing, I come from a background of a lot of destructive behavior. So, to be invited into this culture and this family, this adopted family, is amazing," she remarked. "Look at the size of the Hōkūleʻa! It's not that big for the voyage that it's going on, and all of these people have to learn to work together."

    She added that coming back to Alaska was like coming full circle for her.

    "I want to use my art to celebrate work being done to make the change I’d like to see in our world," Bitz said. "I finally feel free."

    Bitz added she is no expert when it comes to Hawaiian or Oceanic cultures.

    "I want to listen and learn, and amplify their stories," she said.

    View more of Bitz's artwork here.

    Below: Bitz and her daughter, Natalie, paddle on Monday in Auke Bay. (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)

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