The renowned hotel brand showcases early and contemporary work from Hawaii

Julie Cline credits her childhood growing up in Hawaii for her ability to tell a story, and she’s done it in a visual way through two collections

of art at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea.

Her work on the art collection at the Hualalai property was ground-breaking when the resort opened its doors in 1996. At the time, most hotel art was generic, without much of a sense of place. The Punahou alumna, who had established Julie Cline Fine Art Services in Santa Barbara, Calif., had an international reputation working with private collectors and corporations. She envisioned the placement of art from Hawaii’s Golden Age of the 1920s and ’30s that would complement the hotel’s design, encompassing charming low-rise, mid-20th century bungalow-style buildings.

The collection comprises paintings of Hawaii seen through the eyes of artists who traveled with the early voyages of discovery, as well as those who had heard of the Isles’ allure and came to see for themselves in the early 1900s. Makaloa mats and artifacts dating to the era of Western discovery (the late 1700s), also are featured as an expression of the resort’s commitment to preserving the art and culture of Hawaii.

Cline’s desire to present more traditional art-forms arose from her perception that such pieces have generally been relegated to the realm of craft, and to present them in the alternative environment of a resort would go a long way in changing that perception.

“After the hotel opened, people went crazy when articles came out and guests came to stay,” she says. “They’d never seen tapa presented in a frame, in a sophisticated manner.”

Among the impressed was the management team of MSD Capital, which came calling in 2006, when they wanted similar artwork to grace the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. But Cline had moved on and was ready to tell the second part of Hawaii’s story, spanning Statehood to the present.

Perhaps she had psychic abilities, because by then she had been spending time in Hawaii talking to curators and collectors, and visiting artists’ studios in researching the contemporary arts scene. Her intent, as with the earlier collection, was to bring local artists to the attention of the mainstream art world.

“When I was working on Hualalai, I felt I was just touching the tip of the iceberg,” Cline says. “I went home with piles of information and photographs on contemporary Hawaii artists, not knowing how I was going to share it.”

While the casual viewer of the Maui property will see artwork that is, on its surface, vibrant, colorful and often easy on the eyes, Cline dared to take a more subversive approach in casting Hawaii as an imperfect paradise.

That is not necessarily a good idea for any property catering to the comfort of guests who may not share or care to be confronted by such a viewpoint. The desire to avoid challenge or provocation has resulted in tame, tranquil works of art in public spaces.

But Cline felt it was necessary to allow viewers to make their own connections with Maui beyond the superficial, through works that offer a window into the past, as well as insight into the growing pains that have made Hawaii what it is today.

“With some art you feel a great sense of anger, or a sense or loss,” Cline says. “The more time you spend with this work, the more you get involved with being here.”

Exemplifying that connection is Kloe Kang’s “Wayfinder,” a painting of rice bowls configured to look like a constellation, which hangs in one of the resort’s guest suites. The work connects the artist’s family’s journey from Korea to Hawaii, while referencing the ancient Hawaiian voyagers’ method of using the stars to find their way home.

To enhance the viewing experience at the property, guests are given a 20-page guide to the public pieces that can be accompanied by a podcast tour or audio player borrowed at the front desk.

“Four Season Resorts Maui and Hualalai now own the art history of Hawaii,” Cline says. “This idea will bond the two Four Seasons (resorts) uniquely as the caretakers of Hawaii’s art history and will allow the story to be told. There couldn’t be a better canvas for it.”