Allison Milham, “Pilina Everlasting”

Allison Milham,
Atascadero, California

Pilina Everlasting
Artists’ Book
7.5 x 7.5 x 1.75 “(closed) / 25 x 7.5 x 1.75 ” (open)

Artist Statement

DRAWING ON INDIGENOUS WAYS OF KNOWING and the ever-shifting volcanic landscapes of Hawai‘i Island, Pilina Everlasting is a meditation on loss and love that honors my experience of grief and the ways I’ve found healing through forging new intimacies with ‘āina (the land) and nā kūpuna (my ancestors). The sounds and sequences of text & image offer moments of connection and belonging within an ever-changing environment, cycling
through life and death. Themes of pilina (connection, relationship), loss and transformation are explored through music and print.

The project began during a monthlong songwriting residency in September of 2018 at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, shortly after losing my mom to pancreatic cancer. Being on Hawai‘i Island—the place where my ancestors come from and where my mom and I had spent time together—was a deep comfort during my early stages of grief. When I arrived, the massive eruptions occurring that spring and summer along the Lower East Rift Zone of Kīlauea had just subsided. The recent devastation of forests and homes resonated. At the same time, a sense of hope was felt with the creation of new ‘āina—Pele’s work, and with the slow but sure succession of plant
growth—lichens and mosses followed by ferns, shrubs and ‘ōhi‘a—the gifts of Hi‘iaka, Pele’s sister.

While there, I learned the mo‘olelo (stories) associated with the places I visited. I practiced ‘ ō lelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language), learned my first oli (chant) and cultivated my skills of kilo (observation). I was beginning the journey of reforging connections and finding myself in the wake of losing the closest person in my life. There were endless ways I felt my inner experience mirrored in the landscape surrounding me and I was blessed with an abiding sense of feeling seen and loved.

As part of this project, I’ve included a short pamphlet featuring an essay by mom. She wrote Mauna Kea Calling shortly after her move home to Hawai‘i in 2015 when she became involved in the struggle to protect Mauna Kea.In this short piece, she speaks to several issues affecting Native Hawaiians as the result of ongoing US occupation and militarism in our islands. I dedicate this project to her, in honor of our eternal bond and our shared commitment to protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples and sacred relationships with ‘āina.

Following my time in Hawai‘i I worked on the text, images and structure in fits and starts at various artist residencies including Paper Machine, In Cahoots and The Press at Colorado College. The printing of Mauna Kea Calling was done during my time as visiting faculty at UA’s Book Arts Program in the winter of 2021. The rest of
the printing and binding was completed at home in my tiny studio in the redwoods in early 2022. I couldn’t have done it without the loving support and encouragement from my family and many sweet friends as I processed through grief and prolonged creative paralysis.

Pilina Everlasting was composed, designed, printed and bound by Allison Leialoha Milham. The text and images were printed on the letterpress from photopolymer plates with added layers of sumi ink washes on Rives Heavyweight and handmade papers. Other papers include abaca from the Morgan Conservatory and cover sheets
from Cave Paper. The 7-inch record was cut into clear acrylic by LatheCuts in Tucson. In an effort to better integrate the music into the viewing experience, a built-in sound piece containing a sample from the record is triggered when the box is opened. Music was composed at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and recorded at home. Open editions of the content will be made available in alternative formats. This hand-printed and bound, boxed
set exists in a limited edition of eight.