The Nancy Lane self-portrait is both haunting and evocative. It's been hanging on a living room wall for a couple of months due to a casual acquaintance with the artist and the generosity of Harlan Hughes. He and his partner, Judy Anderson, were Nancy's close friends during Maui's freewheeling days.
"I had Nancy's pictures stored away," Harlan said. His elegant Japanese-influenced house has limited wall space. "I thought I would give them to someone who knew and appreciated Nancy."
Lined up on the floor, there were four pictures. Two of them were life-size self-portraits done in pencil. One was a profile and the other was a full-face portrait that Harlan thought Nancy had probably done from looking at herself in a mirror.
The midmorning meeting in his Kula house came about after a telephone call. Actually, it took two calls. The first arranged a meeting. The second was a polite reminder I was a half-hour late. Truth be told, I had forgotten. Living the life of an unstructured retiree tends to confuse one day with another.
We talked about the portraits. Harlan was willing to part with both of them. Another case of limited wall space dictated just one. He agreed the life-size, full-face portrait was the more appealing of the two.
Once up on the wall, the attractive face began "talking." The eyes spoke the loudest of a long-past time when Maui harbored an eclectic community of newcomers - surfers, artists, musicians, hippies and druggies. The gender ratio in this band of individuals was about 10-to-1 male. Nearly all of the newcomers were haole. A few - a very few - of the guys managed to get involved romantically with local women. The island was once a much smaller place in the 1960s and '70s and there was little mixing between newcomers with questionable lifestyles and the local population. Locals were mostly tolerant of what they saw as aberrant behavior as long as it didn't smack them in the face.
A creative, attractive haole had her choice of men friends. The less inhibited she was, the more choices she had among the good, the unreliable and the evil. It all made for unsettling experiences on both sides of the sexual divide.
The portrait's eyes seem to reflect the mix of pain and pleasure so much a part of an unattached, sensitive newcomer's life on Maui in the 1960s and 1970s. Emotional and mental pain seemed to dominate Nancy's life. As do many artists, she channeled whatever she felt into her art.
Until the portrait, the Nancy Lane image that hovered on the edge of consciousness for decades was a lush painting. It showed an elegant woman sipping a cocktail in what appeared to be a tropical garden. It was one of the many paintings she did while living in Kahakuloa.
She had given the painting to Betty Green, aka Liz Janes and Liz Janes-Brown. As she was for many, Betty was a nonjudgmental safe harbor for the troubled. At various times, Nancy battled personal demons. Sometimes successfully and other times not so.
There was one time at the old Pizza Factory. Betty and Nancy had allowed me to join them while they discussed some theater project. Maui Community Theater often tapped accomplished artists to do set designs or posters - all gratis, of course.
One of her demons was gnawing at Nancy - specifically, individuals who "use me." She looked across the table and aimed an accusation. "You don't use people, do you?"
I replied with the first thing that came to mind. "Not the way you think, but as a writer I use what I learn from everyone I know." She turned away. A definite chill fell over the table, one that even Betty couldn't thaw.
There had been a time when, for ordinary worker pay, Nancy created original fabric designs for Otaheite, the clothing enterprise run by John and Sharon Lawrence, the same couple who built on Otaheite success by opening the first Jeans Factory stores and the Blue Max, a second-floor, Front Street rock 'n' roll club.
Nancy's portrait is less gaunt than I remember her being. Maybe it was done during one of her better times. I don't know what happened to her. It's not important. The Nancy Lane on the wall is a reminder of a Maui when falling in love was an everyday occurrence.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.