Walk through the streets of Kakaako in Honolulu, and you’ll find yourself in one of the world’s most inspiring, unofficial, outdoor art galleries. Home to Pow! Wow! — the global street art festival that attracts artists from all corners of the world — the murals that are created live on long after the event, providing pedestrians and passers-by with a constant injection of art in their lives. Keep walking, and eventually you will stumble upon Lana Lane, a warehouse building that is home to a collective of creatives, from lettering artists and oil painters, to videographers and graphic designers. It’s also where you’ll find Matthew and Roxanne Ortiz , a husband and wife team who make up Wooden Wave.
With a background in fine art, you’ll find pieces from Wooden Wave as far afield as galleries in Washington D.C., but it’s their signature treehouse designs that are synonymous with their name. They use nature as their guide, add in a dose of the fantastical (inspired by a love of Peter Pan and the movie Hook) and build sustainable elements into the designs. The resulting artwork brings out the child in all of us, both young and old.
Recently, they took one of their projects directly to children, in the Sunset Beach Elementary School. With hands-on help from the 400 students in the school, Wooden Wave recently painted two murals; a mauka-themed wall that depicts a sustainable treehouse landscape, and a makai-themed wall with a sustainable ocean dwelling. The ocean dwelling carries a theme of `ahupua`a—the traditional land and ocean tenure system of Hawaii. The goal is to help local children understand their environment, and the plants and animals that they live amongst. The result is a mural that inspires, educates, and triggers a sense of community for the school. No Wooden Wave treehouse is complete without its sustainable elements, however, so you will find rain catchment systems and green roofs alongside the more playful skate ramps and tire swings.
In fact, whether they are painting neighborhood walls at Pow! Wow! — (this year they will be collaborating with Lana Lane Studio-mate Gavin Murai, who is a letterer and graphic designer on a wall on Cooke Street) —penning fine art drawings for galleries, or creating fantastical murals for school yards, sustainability is the common thread through all of Wooden Wave’s work. Growing up in the resource-challenged island of Hawai’i’, they understand the importance of considering the environment and its long term health in everything you do, and they try to incorporate these ideas into their art in a fun way. If it manages to inspire even a handful of the island’s future architects, policy makers, and engineers, then as far as they are concerned, it’s mission accomplished!