Creative Vision, Unusual Eruptions, MANA Art Show and a Novel Cover – 2023!

Here’s a photo-rich summary of what I’ve been up to this year – watching three formidable eruptions at Kilauea, participating in a stunning Hawaiʻi art exhibition and having a publisher choose my art for the cover of a compelling new Hawaiʻi novel!

All photos by Catherine Robbins and Tom Peek unless otherwise noted. Scans of paintings by Hilo Fine Art Center.

A Rare Perched Lava Lake Appears

Pele’s molten lava flows emerged just before nightfall on January 5th. We hadn’t seen red lava since the Mauna Loa eruption two months earlier.

The resumption of eruptive activity at Kilauea quickly drew my husband Tom Peek and me to the caldera, a ten-minute drive from our house. From our perch on the rim of the crater, Halemaʻumaʻu’s lava lake was in constant motion, with  surging and sometimes even swirling molten lava. Its glow painted the fumes in bright crimson as they rose into the night sky.

In the following weeks, the vast lava lake concentrated inside its own growing berm of hardened black lava, creating a thirty-acre perched lake.


I was riveted!

As a former park ranger on active lava flows and a “lava hound” (a phrase commonly used by islanders to describe someone who just can’t stay away from active flows), I‘ve seen a lot of lava in the last forty years, but I never thought I would live to see a perched lava lake inside Halemaʻumaʻu crater. Night after night and day after day, I was drawn to the caldera’s edge to absorb its energy and reflect on impermanence, knowing that the lake would change form or be covered by new lava flows at any moment. Bearing witness to Pele’s power and creativity makes my fingers tingle and opens my creative eye and voice!

Renowned MANA Invitational Art Show opens on April 8

I felt honored to have two artworks displayed at the MANA Invitational Art Show at the Wailoa Art Center in Hilo. Designers Nelson and Kainoa Makua of Na Makua were the organizers and creative inspiration for the show which featured 29 artists and the students of Ka ‘Umeke Ka‘eo Hawaiian language charter school.

Students and teachers from Ka ‘Umeke Ka‘eo Hawaiian language charter school chanted, opening the exhibit to the public.


Dual Eruption – Kilauea and Mauna Loa (21” x 42”), one of my paintings in the MANA show.

Mauna Loa erupted in the predawn cold of a November 2022 morning! Standing at Kilauea’s summit between the two erupting volcanoes, my body hummed with vibration. I saw and felt the emerging painting as I tingled with cold and stared in wonder at the massive volcano’s breathtaking eruptive glow. I quieted my mind to listen to – and  sense – the greater forces of the fire, earth, air and sky.

The Cliffs of Halemaʻumaʻu (18” x 24”) celebrates a piece of caldera floor that dropped hundreds of feet down the crater wall, halting its downward plunge as a ledge during the historic eruption of 2018. I loved that ledge. It was a place to go – in my mind – for inspired contemplation. But, not unexpectedly, it was completely covered by the deepening and enlarging lava lake several years later, forever lost to view. Only a memory for its many admirers.

 Catherine, Kilauea and Mauna Loa at the MANA show.

Watch Nelson Makua’s video of the art show . . .

‘Lilinoe’ selected by All Night Books for Mauna Kea novel

I put my paintbrush aside in May to assist Tom during the final pre-publication stage of his evocative and inspiring new novel, Mauna Kea: A Novel of Hawaiʻi.

After evaluating works created by Hawaiʻi artists, the publisher and his team selected my painting Lilinoe to grace the cover!

Lilinoe is the home of the goddess of mist on Mauna Kea. In the painting, the snow-covered cone in the background is the summit of the mauna (mountain). Look carefully and you’ll see the mist drifting above the mauna’s upper slopes.

To view photos from Tom’s fall book tour in the Twin Cities and in Honolulu, click here. To read early praise for the novel, click here.

A Milelong Curtain of Lava Fountains!

We hadn’t seen red lava since June and waited with bated breath in September as Kilauea’s summit swelled and an increasing number of earthquakes shook the crater. During this long volcano-induced suspended state, our household was immersed in the final prep for the publication of Tom’s novel, including scheduling the book tour. And then Pele reemerged!

Mid-afternoon on September 10th we got word that molten lava had again emerged from the crater.

We quickly prepared for the trek, not knowing exactly where the best viewing would be or how long we’d be out. After a walk along the caldera’s rim, we spotted the eruptive activity, and I was completely blown away! In my many years of viewing lava, including as a National Park ranger, I had never, ever seen that much lava erupting from such a close vantage point. A mile-long fissure had opened across the crater floor with a curtain of lava fountains that quickly built cinder cones across its length. In the middle of the crater, the fountains jetted into the sky!

Standing on the caldera’s edge while a curtain of fountains filled the growing lava lake.

Domain of the Deities

As the end of the year approached, Poliʻahu appeared on the summit of Mauna Kea. A marvelous way to wrap up 2023!

On December 1st a mantle of snow atop Mauna Kea showed us that Poli’ahu, the goddess of ice and snow, and Pele, the goddess of volcanoes and fire, are both in residence on the isle!

Mahalo for joining me on this photo journey!

With gratitude and love,

Catherine