A Thirst for Saltwater


May 25 - July 12, 2019

A Thirst for Saltwater a solo exhibition of new work by Lehuauakea
Opening reception Saturday May 25, 2019 from 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Follow this link to order Lehuauakea’s new book A Thirst for Saltwater.

Informed by Lehuauakea’s own background as a contemporary mixed-Native Hawaiian artist in the Pacific Northwest, A Thirst For Saltwater seeks to complicate the relationships inherently created through consumption, asking if what we easily devour is devouring us instead.

A Thirst for Saltwater reflects on Lehuauakea’s experiences during a recent artist residency and month-long backpacking trip with Signal Fire. Utilizing public lands to advocate for equitable access and protection of wild and open places, the southwest immersion residency granted artists access to occupied Indigenous lands in what is now widely considered to be the Four Corners of the American Southwest. Along with studying the Ancestral Puebloan empire on a series of interconnected site visits, residents engaged with contemporary Southwest artists, activists, and researchers.

Installation and details of A Thirst for Saltwater, Lehuauakea
Photos courtesy Ryan Patrick Kruger © 2019

Through organic sculpture and repetitive craft-based processes, Lehuauakea meditates on the region’s complex history of territorial dispute and exploitation. A Thirst for Saltwater draws on the tension between the fight to preserve traditional Indigenous land-based practices in the face of ongoing ecological destruction and extractive interests. Lehuauakea questions the roles that both gratitude and greed have played in these environmental narratives.

As we face ongoing global environmental decline and increasing threats to the preservation of marginalized place-based cultures, it is critical for Indigenous knowledge systems to adapt to these ecological changes if they are to be preserved at all. To this end, I believe my work can be explained by asking two questions:

  1. What have we learned from our lands and waters in the past, and chosen to forget?

  2. Are we willing to remember?

A Pit in the Stomach, found oyster shells and gold leaf, dimensions variable, 2019A Pit in the Stomach, found oyster shells and gold leaf, dimensions variable, 2019

The gold oysters in A Pit In The Stomach are part of a special fundraising project for Dig Deep Water, a non-profit working to increase access to potable water on Diné lands. 

Dig Deep Water is a community-managed utility alternative that works to bring clean hot and cold water to those in need through the building of new wells, in-home running water systems, and water delivery trucks.

For Diné families, access to clean water is extremely limited and expensive — over 40% don’t have running water or a toilet in their home — and individuals travel many hours to the nearest well. A Pit In The Stomach addresses topics of consumption and greed and their effects on Southwest Indigenous communities and lands. In response, I’m using this project to raise funds for Dig Deep Water to help Diné families.

For every $5.00 spent, I will mail you a gold oyster as a reminder of our communal and individual power in either healing or worsening these capitalistic consequences.

100% of proceeds will go towards helping Diné communities.

The fundraiser will carry on throughout the duration of the show, May 25 - July 12, and oysters will be given to their new homes after the show closes on July 12, 2019.

For more information about Dig Deep Water and their work in Diné communities, visit

Thank you for helping these communities thrive with access to clean, running water.

Mahalo nui,

Lehuauakea (b. 1996, she/her and they/them) is a mixed Native Hawaiian interdisciplinary artist from Hilo, HI currently living and working in Portland, OR. They received their Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting, with a minor in Art + Ecology from the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Through a range of craft-based media, their art serves as a means of exploring cultural and biological ecologies, mixed-Indigenous identity, and what it means to live within the context of contemporary environmental degradation. Lehuauakea has participated in several solo and group shows throughout the Pacific Northwest, most recently Yəhaw̓ at King Street Station in Seattle, WA and A Gift, A Breath at Alice Gallery in Seattle, WA.