Maui boasts a high concentration of people who’ve led extraordinary lives, individuals equipped with an innate grit that predisposes them to fighting—and beating—the odds. So it should be no surprise that artist Darren Quinn calls the Valley Isle home.
Quinn, whose work will be on display at Wow-Wee Maui’s Kava Bar & Grill in Kahului, has an especially unusual story, one that seems to be a combination of unimaginably divergent highs and lows. One that utilizes black tape and blood-red paint to convey a message both commanding and open to interpretation.
His bold, diverse, often abstract works are a far cry from the standard landscapes that tend to line gallery walls around these parts (I can see why there are so damned many of them, given our surroundings—but still).
But something else sets Quinn apart from, I can say with near certainty, any other visual artist on island: After an accident nearly claimed his life 25 years ago (when he was 20 years old and set on becoming a professional golfer) doctors told Quinn that his quadriplegia meant he’d never be able to use his arms again.
Eff that, he said.
By 1987, with the help of a physical therapist and a splint, he was able to draw using a Sharpie. Almost immediately, he picked up acrylics and generated a series of abstract portraits, depicting faces sans form.
His collection grew, and he started exhibiting and selling his work in 1991. Five years later he moved to Maui, where his story got even more unbelievable.
After about 12 years of displaying his work in galleries across the isle, he and a couple of friends got designs on a way to get Quinn out on the water. Windsurfing.
It was a three-hulled rig that was able to support two—one in a wheelchair and one standing, managing the sail. Jacques Pauvert—a friend of Quinn probably best known as proprietor of the North Shore eatery/drinkery that bears his name—manned the sail. And it actually worked.
The channel between Maui and Molokai is treacherous. Quinn was equipped with scuba gear in case the boat capsized. Yet the two made it across.
Just recently, Quinn was able to tell his story to nationwide audience.
Perhaps it’s not the avenue one would expect for someone like Quinn, but the Food Network was the channel that picked up his unusual work. Giada DeLorentiis and her husband are longtime friends of the artist, and DeLorentiis was able to feature an art opening on-air. This, of course, brought even more attention to the man and his story.
And now Mauians can check out the latest additions to his collection, which includes still-life paintings that verge on impressionistic as well as digital prints featuring words like amore starkly cast on a contrasting background. Most dramatic and notable is “999 (Red and Blue),” which eerily depicts a red gas mask on a blue background. It seems to bear a post-apocalyptic message, but Quinn has said that he wants the viewer to take it in and be affected by the image without being force-fed a direct point-of-view.
His Kahului art opening will take place on Saturday, July 11 and will feature live entertainment from DJ Ray Masters, plus drinks and pupus. It’s a great chance to become a part of this remarkable Maui story. MTW