Betty Hay Freeland
Impressionist painter, Betty Hay Freeland’s family history dates back to the days of the monarchy to include a great-grandmother who was half-sister to Princess Kaiulani and a great-grandfather who was appointed the first governor of Hawai’i. Betty Hay’s perception of Hawai’i is unlike that of any other artist. With 100 years of Hawaiian heritage behind every stroke of the brush and movement of the pallet knife she invites you to share a perspective of her Hawai’i, rich in natural beauty and splendor. Many of her works provide a view into an untouched Hawai’i. It’s been said that her value as a chronicler of a passing era is inestimable.
She was born into plantation life on the Kohala Sugar Company Plantation on the Big Island of Hawai’i, where her father was a mill engineer. As a youngster, her holidays were spent visiting her grandparents Mr. & Mrs. William Buchanan, of Lahaina, Maui. Mr. Buchanan was a section overseer for the Pioneer Mill Sugar Company. So it is natural that Betty Hay’s earliest childhood drawings were of plantation activities, cane fields, sugar mills, field harvesting and the like.
When Betty Hay graduated from Punahou High School, she, like many of Hawaii’s young adults, opted for a Mainland University education, graduating from the University of Colorado and then on to New York for further studies. Betty Hay had charted her career course in the fashion industry as a buyer for McInerny and a sales manager for Sydney Designs. Art had yet to play a prominent role in her life.
In 1963 she married George (Keoki) Freeland of Lahaina, who was just starting his career as a field engineer in the sugar industry. For the next twenty years Betty Hay’s attention was focused on family and raising her three children. As they became older and required less of her time, art became a primary force in her life.
The Lahaina Arts Society was being formed and Mr. Freeland’s mother was part of the founding group. With the encouragement of her mother-in-law, Betty Hay sent some of her paintings to Maui. When her first painting sold for a mere $15, she was surprised but, more so, inspired. Now she would commit more time to developing her skills and techniques.
One only needs to gaze upon one of her landscape paintings to feel Betty Hay’s love of the Aina (land). Betty Hay has said, “I have a passion for Hawai’i that is never satisfied.” As you stand before one of her paintings, you can’t help but feel the passion radiating through the beauty of her Hawaiian landscapes or seascapes.