Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 2, 2004 Art gecko deco
"Pineapple Gecko" rendering by Jeff Langcaon

By Zenaida Serrano
Advertiser Staff Writer

Laura Ruby paints a giant gecko that will be displayed with 49 others during Geckos In Paradise, a charity event and art exhibition organized by Kapi'olani Health Foundation, the fund-raising arm of Kapi'olani Medical Center. Ruby's fiberglass lizard is five feet long and weighs 35 pounds.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Learn more

Check out the whimsical renderings of geckos, and bios of the artists who created them, at: geckosinparadise.com.


Organizers of Geckos in Paradise, a fund-raiser for the Kapi'olani Breast Center, seek businesses, individuals or organizations to sponsor each of 50 geckos. Sponsorships start at $5,000.

Sponsors may select a design from an approved list of artists and enlist the services of the artists to embellish their geckos. At the end of the project, sponsors can keep their geckos.

For details, visit geckosinparadise.com or call 535-7100.

It's a zoo out there: Honolulu's Geckos in Paradise is modeled after similar fund-raisers in several Mainland cities, including Chicago, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Cows on Parade in Chicago: In the summer of 1999, nearly 320 art cows were displayed in an exhibition presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

More than half of the fiberglass bovines were sold through auctions, in which thousands of dollars were raised for local charities.

Pigs on Parade in Seattle: This public art project, produced by the Market Foundation at Pike Place Market, included nearly 200 embellished pigs throughout downtown Seattle in 2001.

Most of the pigs were auctioned off. Proceeds benefitted agencies within the market's historic district.

Party Animals in Washington, D.C.: The district's Commission on the Arts and Humanities installed 100 donkeys and 100 elephants throughout Washington from April to the fall of 2002.

The Party Animals event raised more than $1.2 million that was channeled back to arts commission programs.

Despite the stacks of art supplies and papers in Laura Ruby's cramped office, the gecko lying in the middle of the room was hard to miss.

It's five feet long, weighs at least 35 pounds and has a goofy grin on its face.

With little room to move around the humongous fiberglass lizard, Ruby stood close to the sculpture to paint a map of Mo'ili'ili; an homage to the neighborhood where Ruby has lived for more than 20 years.

Local artists have dozens of other ideas for their geckos. They'll finish the creatures in the image of a lounging sunbather, complete with sunglasses and an umbrella drink; a surfer leashed to a board; a gecko-turned-pineapple; and Geckoman (think Spidey), among other things.

Ruby's lizard is one of 50 being decorated for Geckos in Paradise, a charity event and art exhibition organized by Kapi'olani Health Foundation, the fund-raising arm of Kapi'olani Medical Center.

The project is modeled after similar fund-raisers that have raised thousands of dollars in various Mainland cities: Seattle decorated pigs, Chicago decorated cows and Washington, D.C., decorated donkeys and elephants, said event coordinator Stacey Acma (see below).

"It's a great project," said Ruby, an art instructor at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa. "The bottom line is that it's to raise money for a worthy cause."

The foundation's goal is to raise $250,000, which will go to the Kapi'olani Breast Center. In addition to solicited sponsorships for each gecko, money will be raised from the sale of gecko gear, including Hilo Hattie aloha wear, T-shirts and pins, Acma said.

The geckos are made from a model designed by artist Rochelle Lum and will be decorated by local artists, including Linda Kane, Grant Kagimoto, Dorothy Faison, Doug Young, Ron Kowalke and Jinja Kim.

The Geckos in Paradise project goes into high gear in September, when all 50 geckos will be showcased on the grounds of the Hawai'i State Art Museum. The geckos will be displayed individually around Waikiki and downtown Honolulu in October, in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Organizers unveiled the first gecko June 17 at the Harbor Court sales office on Queen Street. Artist Lynn Schoonejongen Ohtani, with the help of painter Chuck Davis, embellished a lizard they called "Echo Gecko."

Ohtani, a technical director, painted the sculpture with a camouflage pattern of white, pink and yellow, and topped it off with bright blue "baby geckos," or "echo geckos," Ohtani said.

Ruby named her creation "Mo'o Gecko 'Ili'ili," in celebration of the geology, history and significant features of Mo'ili'ili. Ruby carefully painted a mix of browns, greens and blues on its back to represent the area's topography.

A work in progress, "Mo'o Gecko 'Ili'ili" eventually will don miniatures of community landmarks from the past and present. These include Honolulu Stadium, Kamo'ili'ili Church, the Stan Sheriff Center and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for artists to engage the community and to make something that's fun," Ruby said.

The Mainland art exhibitions that Geckos in Paradise was modeled after were inspired by a public art project introduced in 1998 in Zurich, Switzerland, where more than 800 decorated fiberglass cows were on display.

Honolulu organizers originally considered going with a humuhumunukunukuapua'a (the official state fish) or Hawaiian monk seal, but ultimately chose the "instantly fun" gecko, said Ruby, a member of the artist selection committee. "It's got a really smiley face with large eyes, like it's from the cartoon world. It's very approachable."

Acma, the event coordinator, said the diverse geckos will "absolutely" be a tourist draw.

"They'll not only see local artists' works and their interpretations of art in Hawai'i, but they can visit the different areas in Waikiki and Honolulu where the geckos will be," Acma said.

But the colorful creations are meant for all to enjoy.

"It's going to be so neat to look at," Ohtani said. "The tourists are going to love it, and the locals are going to love it because it's so humorous. It's just so much fun."

Reach Zenaida Serrano at zserrano@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8174.