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Tahitian Artist Brings Passion for Color to Hawaii

While body boarding in Tahiti in 2001, Tahitian artist Linh Cao was struck by lightning. Her heart stopped but she recovered.

As the exotic beauty reminisces about what she calls “that lucky day,” she says, “I’m not lost any more, I know that I have something to do in my life-painting. I felt God was telling me I didn’t finish what I have to do.”

Cao began her journey in Tahiti, and then headed off with a group exhibit in Australia and a solo show in Hawaii. “I hope to keep on going and doing my best for the people around the world.”

On the eve of Cao’s first art exhibit in Hawaii, the up-and-coming Tahitian painter talked about the inspiration behind her art, which is best described as colorful, whimsical, fun and feminine.

Night Inspiration is about how the spirit travels from Tahiti to Hawaii at night,” Cao said. “The spirit takes inspiration from the moon and stars. On the left there’s a moon in yellow and on the right, the spirit. On the top left, there’s a plumeria flower, which represents both Tahiti and Hawaii. On the top right there’s a “honu” (turtle in Tahitian) which represents the spirit traveling at night.”

Born in Paris, the 24-year-old half-German, half Vietnamese artist speaks English with a Tahitian-French accent. She has been living in Tahiti since she was three and took up drawing at the tender age of six. She held her first exhibit in Tahiti at 18.

Cao studied art in Paris. When she’s not teaching painting to children at the Cultural Center in Papeete, she’s body boarding—it’s her other passion.

She came to Hawaii June 8, 2003-and painted 10 new paintings in eight weeks. “It was a little stressful but I enjoyed it. I think I’m not going to paint for one or two months. (Laugh) I’m going to focus on selling my art.”

Her inspiration came from visiting Maui, the Big Island, Waikiki and the North Shore (Oahu), but her paintings have Tahitian influences too. For instance, Mother Nature has a huge Tahitian tiare flower in the middle of the canvas.

Cao describes her style as dream art. “The drawings/images come from my imagination and my dreams-what you want, what you’re scared about…”

She added: “I just paint at the moment… if a person passes by when I’m painting, he’ll be in my painting. I don’t think about it before…only after when I have to explain my paintings. I try to understand why I did what I did. With time, I came to understand more of what I do.”

And Cao wants to show her art everywhere. “Now I’m well-known in Tahiti. My challenge is to show my art around the world. My first step was here…to make my real first [solo] exhibition outside of Tahiti.” In Melbourne, Australia, she participated in group shows at Victoria Art and Swinburne University, and Melbourne Museum in September 2001.

Cao went back to her home in Tahiti August 23. After her exhibit at South Street Gallery ended, her paintings moved to Na Mea Hawai’i in Honolulu.

“I want to show people how I feel about Hawaii…my love of the islands. With each exhibit, it’s going toward more light, more color. This one is the best color I have…more rainbow color.”

Cao can be reached at

To view Cao’s work, go to:

Moon Yun Choi is a freelance journalist based in Hawaii. She is the Pacific Islands Editor for Ain’t It Cool News, an online film and TV magazine. She contributes mainly feature and film articles to script magazine, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and Filipinas Magazine. A world traveler, she was a staff writer at Tahiti Sun Press in Papeete, Tahiti for almost two years.

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