#6 Queen of the Reef
This painting, Queen of the Reef (Reine du Recif), the sixth in the Liza's Reef series, is my personal favorite and it captures the enchanting beauty of the reef , shimmering and luminescent in the evening twilight, a magical place of sublime colors, cascading corals and exotic life forms.
The most exquisite fish I saw on the reef was the Ange De la Reine (Queen Angel). It is similar to other Queen Angelfish found throughout the South Pacific, but with a couple of very real differences. This species, according to the islanders, has the unusual chameleon-like ability of changing colors from its normal blue and green to purple and pink. The VanuaSemians insists it occurs and is always connected to events that happen on the island rather than from environmental cues. They believe that the Anges De la Reine are sympathetic to joyful things that happen to the people of the island -when they fell in love, when babies were born, when festivals occurred and so on. That somehow the fish is connected in spirit with the islanders and this colorful metamorphosis is the result of that unity. Because of that, it had been given the highest status of all of the animals on the reef, and its image was used often in their sacred art.
Another unique characteristic of the Liza's Reef Queen Angels are the presence on their foreheads of a singular mark that matches the bright yellow color of their tail fins. Ra'miere said these small circular markings were a sign of great blessing and told me that these indicated the fish were extremely important to Motu Mana, their Goddess of the Coral Reefs. Along those same lines, many cultures and religions throughout history, especially those of Egypt, China and India, have portrayed marks like this as "third", all-seeing omniscient eyes, or as symbols of vision and spiritual development. Interestingly enough, from an artist's standpoint, yellow has always been used as a color that symbolizes spirituality. It is, along with blue, one of the most spiritual of all colors. In any event, these anterior marks seem to be distinguishing taxonomic characteristics of this species of Angelfish and are found on no other.
A central mystery surrounding Liza's Reef is the presence of miniature celestial phenomena that hover among the corals -planets, moons, comets, stars and galaxies that can be seen by anyone who goes there. However, and this may be a clue to their nature, when approached closely within a few feet, they disappear. Ephemeral yet appearing to be solid, they are completely unexplainable from a scientific standpoint. The island legends of the Manuia tradition do offer an explanation nevertheless, and tell of how the reef changed overnight when shooting stars fell on it years ago, and link this genesis event directly to the stars that now crown the coral.
In my painting, I have shown some of the bright yellow and orange perforate corals that are so present on the reef. These are called Corail de la Lumière de Soirée or Coral of the Evening Light by the VanuaSemians and they seemed to be everywhere on the reef. Their brilliant colors were easily seen from great distances, and give the reef at times a luminous supernatural appearance, especially at sunset.