We’re very sad to say that Maui lost one of its brightest stars this week. The artist Piero Resta passed away on Tuesday, Sept. 8 at the age of 75. Giovanni Steven Cappelli, the owner of Casanova in Makawao and Bistro Casanova in Kahului, called Resta “a beautiful being who melted in Maui magic and made our lives richer.
“His art is all over my restaurants,” Cappelli told us. “It stays with us forever. I am so grateful that he was my best friend. I wish everybody had a best friend like Piero.”
We call him an artist, but he was so much more than that. Resta was a person who seemed to see the world in brighter colors than usual. He loved everything about art, expression and the power of an individual to imagine and create.
“I am an artist because I am attracted to the alchemy of creativity and to the presence of the Muse,” Resta said in his own artist’s statement, posted on Pieroresta.com. “With each new encounter, I discover new universes, new ways of seeing and breathing, and I work with the colors and the shapes of my explorations.”
MauiTime readers saw this philosophy and energy most vividly in this 2003 story on his then-new Paia gallery known as The Artery.
“It is more urgent than ever to have a space for people to talk and gather,” Resta told writer Joe Gatto. “It is important to have this sanctuary and laboratory as an artist, but also that it is open to the public. Young people who want to learn need places like this; it is a part of the liberal arts life. The Artery is a private place that is a public place. Public art enriches everyone’s life and makes them more intelligent.
“My duty is to be an inspiration,” Resta added. “We’ll make history here, I assure you of that.”
Born in the town of Voghera in Northern Italy on Aug. 3, 1940, Resta studied architecture at the Instituto Leonardo Da Vinci. In his 20s, Resta traveled through Europe, exploring and experimenting with art and expression. He soon settled in New York City, where he did fashion photography and often appeared at Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory, according to his official biography at Pieroresta.com.
But Resta kept moving west, first to California, where he lived as a hermit studying philosophy and mysticism, and later Maui, where he built his magnificent five-acre Villa Tamarinda in Kaupo. The whole place was a work of art. “Italian arches and columns rise to the sky, the kitchen and pizza oven are sculpted into rock walls, mango and papaya trees offer shade, and ancient fishing villages and waterfalls surround the area,” according to Pieroresta.com. “Profound and exalted inspiration is inevitable at the villa.”
The villa was also home to Resta’s Kaupo Art Sanctuary, a kind of eternal festival of the arts that included works from multiple galleries, various studios, a sculpture garden, symposiums, films and poetry. Chefs, musicians, actors and other artists would often stay there, living and working together.
Resta may have created many of his works in the villa, but most people saw his art at places like Paia galleries and Capelli’s restaurants. In 2007, Maui Hands in Paia promoted one of his shows by saying that, “For over forty years, Piero Resta has explored our presence within the cosmos, seeking to discover and expand the inner self by developing a new sense of awareness.”
Former MauiTime Associate Editor Samantha Campos knew Resta well, and she often mentioned his latest show or works in her Holoholo Girl columns. We asked her for a few thoughts on Resta, and she ended up summing up his life and influence as only she could:
“Most everyone knew Piero Resta as one of Maui’s most accomplished artists,” Campos said. “But he was so much more than that. He exalted beauty, celebrated the sublime, suffused love and spirit into everything he did. His Eden-esque villa in Kaupo was a joyful hub of creativity and sensuality; his notorious gatherings there brought together a wide swath of island friends and lovers, poets and artists, longtime residents and those visiting from afar. He was a man who lit up any room he was in with a smile, exuding charisma and charm. To me and other young artists on Maui he was endlessly encouraging, offering genuine support and affection. He taught me what it means to live like an artist, to infuse art into the beauty of living, to collaborate, be curious and find inspiration in everything. To me, Piero epitomized the magic of Maui. I’m so grateful to have known him and to have been blessed by his light.”
We will update this post when we get word of Resta’s services.
Photos of Resta and his art courtesy Piero Resta’s Facebook page