Too often, art galleries in Hawaii assault the eyes with saccharine tropical landscape paintings, over-saturated dolphin photos and ubiquitous lava-inspired glass vases, appropriate only for decorating a 1980s-themed condo in Waikiki. Fortunately, there are exceptions. During time ashore in Lahaina, I discovered three galleries and a home-décor shop well worth browsing.
Whether or not the art is to your taste, the Old Jail Gallery in the basement of the Lahaina Courthouse merits a visit for its setting amid historical prisoner cells. One floor up, the Banyan Tree Gallery displayed an eclectic sampling, but the Norfolk Island pine bowls by Wayne Omura really caught my eye. These exquisite pieces – much less expensive than similarly sized works in koa wood – were thin enough to be translucent, highlighting the colorful grain of the wood.
Extending north from Lahaina’s extraordinary 60-foot-tall banyan tree, which shades an entire city block, Front Street has a parade of historical buildings that house relentlessly touristy shops. Located just east of this fray, the Village Galleries presented its share of tropical landscapes but also refreshingly edgy pieces, such as “Guardians” by Johannette Rowley, a totemic pair of anthropomorphic sculptures clad unsettlingly in tilapia skin.
At Hale Zen, another block to the east, I found a number of fine gifts for people back home. The high-quality children’s clothing selection was charming, and I also felt very tempted to purchase a traditional Hawaiian quilt.