Thursday | March 23, 2017
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Now you see it, now you don’t

Now you see it, now you don’t.

As quickly as David Choe painted an eye-catching mural below Big Island Harley-Davidson on Palani Road, it was painted over and rendered back to its original form: a gray cement retaining wall.

The mural depicted a graffiti-esque mermaid with octopus hair carrying on her back what appears to be the late musician Iz Kamakawiwoole, a turtle, a bird and other items, painted over a black background.

Choe, a renowned graffiti artist, began work on the mural Sunday and drivers who traversed the area in the days thereafter might remember seeing a man in a black hooded sweatshirt, Choe, crossing Palani Road to gaze at the mural from the median as his work progressed. Within about 72 hours, the mural was gone, having been painted over around lunchtime Tuesday.

West Hawaii Today was unable to reach Choe directly for comment on Wednesday. Choe, according to The Washington Post, holds Facebook stock valued in the hundreds of millions. He was paid in stock for a mural he painted several years back at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.

However, in a prepared digital statement sent on Wednesday to West Hawaii Today, Choe said he had strong support from the motorcycle dealership as well as the (BJ) Penn Hawaii Youth Foundation before starting the mural. He noted the mural was not meant to be “dark,” but rather “all love and light,” and apologized for offending anyone.

“Hawaii is a healing, spiritual sanctuary,” Choe said. “The aloha spirit of this island cleanses and heals me; I feel refreshed and alive again when I’m here. I feel like I’m smiling (in Hawaii) while dying inside when I’m on the mainland, so I wanted to give back to the island. I had never painted an iwa (iwi) bird, or octopus, or humuhumunukunukuapuaa or Brother Iz, but I wanted to represent the aloha spirit and paint all these things, bright and colorful, to show my love for Hawaii.”

Big Island Harley-Davidson General Manager Mario Medri said Wednesday Choe offered to paint the mural for free as a gift.

The shop approved the art and work began Sunday.

Subsequent complaints, he said, led the property owner that holds Harley-Davidson’s lease to ask the mural be removed.

Debbie Baker, executive director of the Kailua Village Business Improvement District, which includes the Palani Road area, said the district had no involvement in the mural’s commencement or removal. She said the district did receive some complaints, but referred those directly to Big Island Harley-Davidson.

Prior to Sunday, a mural had covered the wall depicting various Hawaiian-themed images, some of which gave the viewer the perspective of seeing the art through a porthole.

That mural, Medri said, was painted by Kailua-Kona’s self-described “Crazy Mural Lady,” Alice St. Onge.

St. Onge was paid by the dealer to paint the mural, Medri said, noting the mural had not received complaints, possibly because it “fits in” better with the area.

West Hawaii Today was unable to reach St. Onge as of press time Wednesday.