As a preteen, my best buddy and I read The Outsiders, like, five hundred times. We wanted to be Greasers, but it didn’t work out so good considering the era was gone and we lived on an island filling up with Soc’s.
Anyway, we decided to take on mysterious nicknames. She became Bud, and I became Thorn. Her dad–and official driver of our get-away mini van–was Leaf . We wore redneck style, brown baseball caps spray painted with a big orange ball on the bill. At night, we would toilet paper teacher’s houses (Sorry, Miss Meyers) and tag our neighborhood.
Don’t get excited. When I say “tag”, I really mean humiliate every budding gangsta on the island by being big fat wimps. You see, we’d take a big roll of masking tape with us, cover the object we wanted to tag and then leave our mark in bright orange paint–fun to drive by with your mom on the way to school, but easily removable. We did a lot of manhole covers.
Enter Swoon. Swoon is a high maka maka street artist from New York. She’s currently on Maui participating in the Hui No‘eau’s Artist in Residence program, where she works with kids from Maui’s high schools, including Janet Sato’s Baldwin High art students and students from King Kekauliki, Seabury Hall, Maui High and the Alternative Learning Center in Pu‘unene. Her residency ends with an exhibition in collaboration with the students at the Hui beginning Aug. 24.
Swoon specializes in really cool, large paper cutouts that she pastes on abandoned walls. According to the Hui, “Swoon is one of the most prolific and well-known of New York’s new breed of young street artists who have redefined graffiti art, taking urban art to a new level of sophistication and excitement.”
Aside from her street art, Swoon has had exhibits in galleries across the U.S. and Europe. She’s even had a showing at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. One look at her work will convince you that her art is way beyond simple vandalism. Swoon’s work is intricate, interesting and often times, because of its application, illegal.
“Swoon does not release her real name to the public to avoid prosecution for vandalism crimes associated with street art,” states Wikipedia. The Maui News reported that, “Under the law, there is no distinction between Swoon’s work and the aerosol tag that marks the city.”
Ithink that’s really cool, but out of sheer curiousity I asked Maui County prosecuting attorney Benjamin Acob’s opinion on having a street artist teaching our youth about art.
“Artwork is a broad term,” he said. “Some people will differ on what it is… and if the work is in any way offensive, it could be another issue. The bottom line is that even if a building looks abandoned, there is a property owner that can press charges if they feel their property has been damaged. People need to remember to get permission from owners first.”
Acob added that even if it’s something just pasted on a wall as opposed to the more obvious vandalism of spray paint, owners might still see it as damaging.
While most can agree that whoever makes a big stink about cool art being posted on their property kind of sucks, the law’s the law. But the kids really seem to love it.
A few days ago I visited the Hui while Swoon was working with the kids from the Alternative Learning Center. They seemed really involved in their projects and were helpful when I dove into some artwork myself. In fact, when it was time to leave, one girl was so consumed with her work that she had to be told several times to wrap it up because the bus was leaving.
Oblivious to the others, she kept carving away–intricate cut after intricate cut. She was clearly talented and engrossed in the process. Eventually she left, but I wanted to applaud her spunk and blatant disregard for authority in the name of upholding the creative process.
Artist’s Reception on Friday, Aug. 24, 6-9 p.m. with music by DJ Boomshot. The Hui No‘eau is at 2841 Baldwin Ave., Makawao. 572-6560. MTW