Because Honolulu artist Kelly Sueda employs a thick, impasto style in his contemporary paintings, many see him as an architect who builds with paint. In rich landscapes and scenic vistas, portraits of crack seed containers and slippers, Sueda hones in on the pulse of his environment, allowing viewers to recall ordinary and extraordinary island moments from their own perspective.
Yet Sueda has slowly begun to diverge from signature subjects, such as his 2008 Sign Project for The Contemporary Museum of Honolulu, documenting time and place in depictions of classic Hawai’i landmarks. And now he has something new to say, moving beyond aesthetics in a forthcoming show of 100 portraits, featuring people who have motivated and influenced him. He’ll reveal his true, non-photorealistic point of view, hoping to spark dialogue about relationships and what’s beneath the surface of things.
His Favorite Local Getaway:
The Honolulu Zoo
“One of my big secret spots is the zoo. I go twice a week and take my kids, and every time I reminisce a bit. The zoo hasn’t changed a whole lot—the reptiles are in exactly the same spot as when I was six—so I can share with my kids the experiences I had,” says Sueda of this zoological park originating from King Kalakaua’s 1876 royal land grant.
“Other parents I know go there too, so it’s a place of congregation where our kids can play on the playground but we can have an intellectual conversation at the same time. It’s sentimental yet playful, and a safe, open landscape where I can get away and connect with my kids and friends. I know that when my kids grow up I probably won’t revisit it for another twenty years, until I’m a grandparent. So I have a lot to look forward to in this spot.”