interest in the landscape genre began in the 1970s when he was stationed in
Hawaii with the Coast Guard. The lush tropical vegetation covering the volcanic
mountains and valleys inspired many canvases, and led to a later obsession with
Tahitian scenes and culture. In 1974, Ron moved to Tahiti and concentrated on
painting the beautiful Tahitian land forms. Ten years later, after having
returned to the United States, Ron began including geometric shapes in his landscapes, and
began altering details of the scene to emphasize various aspects of geometry.
His most extreme examples of this style are his pop impressionist works such as
Three Horses (1989) and Laguna Beach (1990). Today, Ron's body of
work includes a wide variety of landscape variations that focuses more on his impressionistic style. To see a
landscape painting, click on one of the images to the left.
Essay by Ron Marlett
early light slowly unveils the tropical heavens with pastel cobalt and
cerulean blues, and clouds tinted orange with violet shading. The
sunrise frees Tahiti's landscape from its night shadows. The volcanic
mountains' steep inclinations and unusual topography are decorated with
tropical shrubs and grasses. In the center of the tallest mountain a
small lake's glassy surface becomes disturbed with the arrival of
raindrops falling from a passing cloud. The
excess water bubbles over stones as it flows down the meandering
streams that lead to larger rivers. The morning ages as the sun rises
higher in the sky. Mango trees become bright green with ripened fruit
dangling in arms reach. Most of the Mangos are on the tops of the trees
where their colors change from green to red. The breadfruit trees'
large leaves hide some of the breadfruit, but most of the starchy food
can be seen hanging like lime green cannon balls, the weight of which
bends the branches down. Reaching above the various trees are the
coconut palms; in their maturity, the thin gray trunks don a burst of
palm leaves in changing stages of growth. The new shoots point skywards,
unfolded green leaves curve down; shriveled dry leaves limply droop
around clusters of green coconuts that grow at the trunk's top. The
youthful coconut trees have a mixture of tertiary orange and
yellow-green leaves. The young palms' bright colors and diverse sizes
fill in the empty spaces created by their parents. The papaya trees and
sweet smelling white and pink plumeria grow in abundance throughout the
valleys and hills; the plants' exotic appearance gives the Tahitian jungle
an image more fitting to the Cretaceous Period.
Scattered along the beaches and valleys are different
styles of houses, a combination of Polynesian and French Colonial
designs that were built with varying levels of structual integrity.
Some were built without glass panes in the window spaces. The owners of
glassless homes installed plywood panels on the outside of their
windows to keep out the wind and rain during storms. The window panels
are kept opened with sticks, which gives their homes the appearance of
wooden warships whose gun ports are open for battle. Tahitians lacking
the assets in wanting to own a nice home use their creativity to build
shacks. The awkward-looking shelters made of disgarded lumber and
corrugated metal are painted bright colors. Red, orange, and yellow
huts with grass-thatched roofs add to the charm of Tahiti's landscape.
In every doorway and window hang traditional flower-patterned
draperies. Some houses have their curtains pulled back revealing the
slow moving silhouettes of parents preparing themselves for the
onslaught of their waking children.
The island's residents are arising to a sunny Sunday. They share
their stories about the events of yesterday and make new plans for a
relaxing day. A man reaches out of his kitchen window and picks enough
bananas for his family who are beginning to gather at the table. A
young woman gathers freashly picked oranges and grapefruits and places
them in her wicker basket. In each household the women prepare
breakfast. French baguettes and a hot chocolate drink, supplemented
with freash fruit from the family garden. Another variation to the menu
includes fried breadfruit accompanied by a sweetened orange drink.
Children help themselves to imported boxes of sugar coated cereal. As
the boys and girls eat the processed cereal, they look at the box art
and wonder why Americans pour milk over what Tahitians consider a
The morning silence is broken by a distant echo of a dog barking
for the attention of its master. The dog's clamor is like a school bell
that releases the children from their houses. Children of all ages
gather in groups to play games or explore their playground. Several
boys dress up in armor made of banana leaves and discarded pots and
pans. The oldest boy instructs his friends by drawing a strategy in the
dirt. The leader gives the order and they charge another group of boys
engaged in the same activity. Rotten coconuts fly through the air and
sticks are crossed in a heated battle. A wooden sword finds its mark on
a frying pan and the boy begins to cry. The battle quickly ends with
the arrival of an angry parent. Girls have nothing to do with the boys'
war game. Girls prefer acting out the adult responsibilities of their
mothers. When acting like grown-ups becomes boring, the girls play jump
rope or practice their singing.
The adolescent children finish their morning chores and gather at
special meeting places. A twelve-year-old girl runs toward the beach to
rendezvous with her friends. Her body shows signs of womanhood and she
is proud of her new shape. She meets with her girlfriends on a black
sand beach and they talk about boys. Close by the girls' huddle are
curious boys that discuss the wonderful changes their girlfriends are
going through this year. The adolescents exchange glances and become
embarrassed when their favorites catch them looking. Older teenagers
who have more experience with the opposite sex are sitting together
talking about the next party or how much fun it would be to travel.
Strolling up and down the beach are lovers holding hands and talking
about their future marriage. Occasionally, the lovers stop to look at
the sea. the young men and women watch the turquoise waves break into
walls of froathing water that roll toward the beach, thinning out into
white sheets of foam as it reaches the boundry between land and sea.
The warm, seductive water recedes into an approaching wave where
islanders are frolicking in the surf.
Beyond the swimmers' play area are outrigger canoes with
fishermen waiting for a catch. The noon sun glares down on the sailors
who protect their heads from sunburn by wearing extra large straw hats.
The crews paddle their brightly painted canoes into areas where schools
of fish have gathered. Nets are cast and spears are thrown that catch
many of the fish. Some of the men dive into the water to help haul in
the nets. Emerald fish desperately thrash their tails to escape; but
their fate is sealed by the net's twine that bunches them together. The
men are satisfied with their haul and pause from the strenuous
activity. An old man tells the younger men about his escape from the
jaws of a shark while he was diving near the reef-break. At the
completion of the old man's story, the fishermen grab their paddles and
begin to maneuver their boats for the trip home. White-tailed
tropicbirds and Black Noddies, who are watching for a feeding
opportunity, swarm above the fish-packed canoes as the men briskly
paddle the boats toward shore. The canoes are beached and anxious
vendors greet the fishermen to negotiate sales. The purchased fish are
tied to poles and hung in the backs of small gray pick-up trucks. The
vendors race off to nearby neighborhoods. Each mobile salesman is
hoping to make a fast sale before the cargo smells fishy.
Wakening from an afternoon nap, the islanders prepare for Sunday
dinner. Women go over their recipes and begin preliminary work for the
meals. Combining French and Tahitian cuisine is very popular throughout
French Polynesia. Tahitian poi is no longer a taro paste as it was made
150 years ago; the bland tasting poi has evolved into a sweet pudding.
One woman desides to make pumpkin poi using canned puree, tapioca,
starch, vanilla, and sugar. The main entrée of her dinner will be baked
mahi mahi with potatoes in cream sauce. At another home, a woman
prepares an onion soup and pours the concoction into thick ceramic
bowls. She places butter and garlic-toasted baguette slices on top of
the soup and covers each serving with provolone cheese. The soups are
baked in her oven until the cheese turns golden brown. Family members
and friends begin to arrive at the designated party homes. The visiting
women bring their favorite courses that turn the Sunday dinner into a
large feast. Everyone eats until his or her full stomach bloats.
Guitars, ukuleles, log drums, and skin drums are handed out to the
musicians and the family entertainment begins. The fast beat of the
songs encourages the young to dance.
and girls tie cloth around their hips and create a dance formation. The
dancers' hips rock back and forth in cadence to the bass drum, and
their hands illustrate the song's story. Guitar and ukulele strings
resonate the rhythmas everyone sings:
Tamure tamure, tamure ta mama
Puiti e rere, taimai e tupe.
Tupe tupe te vahine tamure.
Tupe tupe te vahine tamure.
stopping, the drummers take over and increase the music's speed. Being
different sizes, the hallowed logs create a variation of tones that
loudly vibrate above the party noise. Each drummer has one stick he
uses to play the woody drum songs. The skin drum players use two sticks
for their instruments. The drums' fast beat entices the young men
to join the dancing women. The men flap their legs in and out while
rocking their bodies side to side. As a joke , the men place their
hands in the back of their pants and imitate the womens' rear-end
movements. The older generation likes to watch the young sing and
dance, but evening is approaching and it is time for the old to gather
at the chapel.
200-year-old Gothic church was built with carved
volcanic stones. The church's steep-sloping roof is covered with slate
shinkles imported from England before France took over jurisdiction of
the island. The tall wood-framed steeple no longer has its brass bell,
but the iron cross on top the spire still points to heaven. On each
side of the chapel are tall, thin windows with blue painted shutters.
The windows have no glass and the shutters are opened for ventilation
during sermons and choir practice. Family members escort their
grandparents through the large church doors and sit on the polished
wood pews. Old widows and widowers sit and reminisce about their lost
companians and the jovial times they had in the prime of their lives.
Husbands and wives with weathered faces sit close to each other holding
wrinkled hands. All the parishioners become quiet when they see
the choirmaster stand and raise his hand.
On the downbeat, a loud burst of rhythmic voices harmonizes into
a Christian carol. Men with deep voices chant a methodic beat that
resembles a bass drum, while some of the women's high-pitched voices,
in a variety of tones, echo scales complementary to the melody. Men and
women with tenor, alto, and soprano voices sing the main melody in a
Polynesian style where all the notes are accented without slurring, and
ornamentations are traded back and forth between men and women. The
chorus begins to cresendo, rising above the old faces and beyond the
vaulted ceiling, caressing the flickering orange light that dance among
the palms at sunset, envoloping Tahiti with the memories of long lives.
The old men and women sing together as they have lived together. From
the first day they walked the beach as lovers, until their last days as
seniors, they have remained friends. The singing ends and the families
help their grandparents outside to watch another day come to a close.
The sea breeze is calm and the palm leaves lie still. The warm colors
of the sky gradually darken as the sun disappears over the horizon.
Billions of stars appear in the black sky, and the islanders look up at
the heavens and give thanks that in a universe full of worlds, there is
a place called Tahiti.