In the mid 1980's I wanted to do a painting of Ruth and Naomi as recorded in the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament. I was named after Ruth, and she was a heroine of mine, a strong woman who went on the a "road less traveled". I decided to paint my view of them so I did a lot of daily praying about the painting and asked for spiritual inspiration! Gradually I began to see in my mind how I would want it to be. I then went in search of models to use for my painting. I wanted Ruth and Naomi to look Jewish instead of Roman or Greek, as many classical artists had painted them. I did research at the Temple Emanuel and Rabbi Nodel gave me books to read about Moab, where Naomi and her husband and sons had gone to live during the drought in Bethlehem-Judah. I went to several services at the Jewish Temple Emanuel and scanned the audience looking for my Ruth and Naomi. However, no one looked like the Ruth and Naomi that I saw in my mind's eye.
One Sunday I went to Sacrament meeting at Auwaiolimu Ward and Sister Marlene Keawe was one of the speakers. Her husband had been our Bishop and they were loved by everyone. She told us that she and her husband were moving to San Diego, California and she expressed her appreciation for all of us in the Ward. As she went on she said, "You all know my MOTHER IN LAW as being full of Aloha. I want you to know that she is that way at home also and I LOVE HER VERY MUCH." The expression of this DAUGHTER IN LAW'S love struck me like a bolt of lightening! I stood up and moved to the door opening by the side of the aisles and looked back in the Chapel to see her Mother in law, the famous Hawaiian singer, Aunty Genoa Keawe! And as I again looked at the young woman speaking, I thought, "They look Jewish to me!"
As soon as the meeting ended I rushed up to them both and told them that I wanted to do a painting of Ruth and Naomi and would they be willing to pose for some camera studies before Marlene left on Friday. They said they would be honored to do so, and I ask if they would be able to come over to my place on Thursday morning for the photo session.
I came home and began calling all the botanists that I could find at the botanical gardens around the island and ask if they knew where there was a fig tree growing on the Island of Oahu! They all said they didn't know of any. I left my name and phone number and ask them to call if they saw a fig tree. On Tuesday night I got a call from one of the botanists saying that she had gone grocery shopping at Foodland on Beretania Street and in the back parking lot she saw a fig tree on the side of an apartment parking area across the street. She said that it had lots of new shoots coming up. I thanked her very much and early the next morning I went to the apartment building and approached the apartment manager and asked her if she could arrange so there would not be cars parked in front of the fig tree the next morning so I could take a picture there for a painting I was doing. She was happy to assist me with this rather unusual request.
I arranged for another sister in our Ward, Sister Helen Hewlin, to come to assist me in dressing Naomi and Ruth and to pose as Orpha. Thursday morning Helen, Genoa, and Marlene came to my home. Genoa wore a long dark muumuu and Marlene wore a white one. I had saved a box of cloth, with out really knowing why, that I had labeled, "Jewish looking cloth." In it I found pieces of cloth to wrap around them for head coverings and for a bag Naomi carried. We four sisters gathered together in my living room and bowed our heads in prayer as we asked for Heavenly Father's spirit to be with us. We dressed Ruth, Naomi and Orpha and read the account in the BOOK OF RUTH, so we could feel as they felt that day on the road less traveled from Moab to Bethlehem!
We drove to the apartment complex and I had them stand as I had seen them in my mind. Our cousin, Gordon, met us there to be the photographer. The photographs recorded the scene and gave me excellent resource material for my painting. I took the photographs up to Temple Emanuel to Rabbi Nodel and ask him, "Do these woman look Jewish"? He said, "Very definitely!" That assurance pleased me and I was now ready to begin my painting. I later found out that Marlene is Filipino, Puerto-Rican and Caucasian. Genoa is Hawaiian, Spanish and Caucasian!
I painted a light cerulean blue sky with three cloud formations to represent the Father, Son and the Spirit and their over-control in the lives of those who are spirit led, who desire to do God's will in their lives. I had two cypress trees in the background where Orpha is sadly walking to return to Moab. They symbolize the two friends she is leaving, but taking with her in her heart. Orpha must have had the most ties to Moab and it was truly best for her to return.
The new sprouts of the Fig tree give one a chance to see the leaf formations which are symbolic and used in the Temple to represent the renewed commitments of Adam and Eve. There are many other references to the fig tree in the scriptures, but one is when Jesus said to his disciples, "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh; So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it (his return) is near, even at the doors." I wanted to have the fig tree in my painting since it reminds us that Jesus will someday come back to our earth. I painted some sheaths of wheat in the left corner in front of Ruth. We know in the story that she will soon meet her husband as she gleans the wheat on Boaz's field. In the right corner I painted three large sturdy rocks to symbolize the strength of those three woman. Two rocks are bonded together and the third is bowed down, but strong also.
It took me several weeks to finish the painting. When Marlene returned for a visit she and Genoa came to see the painting. Tears came in Genoa's eyes as she saw it and they both expressed their appreciation for having been asked to be models for the painting. I gave them each an enlarged photograph of the painting for their homes.
I was asked several times to display my painting at several Church Women's gatherings and entered it in an art show for the American Mother's where it won a prize.
I lovingly dedicated my painting to the memory of Ruth and Naomi and the Sisterhood we share and remain grateful for the special mother and daughter in law who were the models for the painting.