Museum educator and artist Bradley Capello colors outside the lines.
Text by Lisa Yamada
Images by Haren Soril
Bradley will be part of a new exhibition opening at SPF Projects kicking off August 7
SUMMER GROUP SHOW, A GROUP EXHIBITION
Where: SPF Projects, 729 Auahi St., Honolulu
Opening reception: Thursday, August 7, 6 to 8 p.m.
Until: August 7 through August 31
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 7 to 11 p.m., Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.
On a breezy spring day at Sandy Beach Park on O‘ahu’s east side, nearly a dozen handmade kites of varying shapes and sizes fill the sky. There’s a gigantic red squid, its wide, phallic-shaped head soaring surprisingly high; a googly-eyed manta ray darting quickly from left to right; a delicately painted blue bird trembling by its wings. “There’s a spiritual connection to flying a kite that’s pretty trippy,” says Bradley Capello, the museum educator at Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House and the person responsible for the day’s kite-flying festivities. “You have this thing flying really high above the ground that you can feel tug with every movement. It’s almost metaphoric, that your actions from the ground dictate what’s happening above.”
The kites are part of a program that Capello has been tasked with, called Art Club. Since its inception over three years ago, Art Club has been an opportunity to reactivate the museum grounds. “It’s meant to explore play and art-making without too much pretense. It’s about connecting us to those things we did as kids that we have long since abandoned,” says Capello, who remembers flying kites with his dad. “I had this amazing white diamond kite with an angelfish on it. And yes, it was a rainbow angelfish. I still dream of it.”
Managing Art Club is just one facet of the artist’s work at the museum. In line with Spalding House’s focus on education, Capello is also responsible for creating additional interactive, hands-on programs that connect visitors with the exhibitions on display. For a photography show, for example, Capello worked with other artists and photographers to create sun prints with students. Other Art Club activities have included rubber ducky races and Easter egg-dying competitions. He also oversees the Orvis Artist in Residence program, a six-week installation at the outdoor Surface Gallery that opens up the creative process to the public.
For as long as he can remember, Capello’s life has been marked by color, and his journey seems to have come full circle with his work at Spalding House. He took art classes at the museum from kindergarten up until his move in eighth grade to California, where he continued to make art but also became immersed in Los Angeles’ candy rave scene. Think “plush pants and glow sticks and boas and beads coming out of your ass,” he says.
After high school, Capello moved back to O‘ahu to study printmaking at the University of Hawai‘i. Inspired by his Catholic upbringing, as well as the candy-colored rave scene, Capello began exploring themes of love, obsession, desire, and various forms of worship. In the worlds he built for his installation-based work, Saint Mary collided with Matt Damon and Paris Hilton, puppies and porn collided with teddy bears, Buddha, and bubbles. “Growing up going to church all the time, I think I just wanted to see what would happen by putting things like muscle worship and your love for puppies up to the level of saints, or as the saints,” he says. “That whole feeling is all rolled up into the same idea.”
These ideas of obsession and desire still play heavily into Capello’s personal projects. For an upcoming exhibition at SPF Projects in Kaka‘ako, Capello is turning the split-level space into prayer and meditation rooms. One “altar” will be a public restroom (“referencing, of course, gay cruising spaces”) with an actual vintage bathroom stall Capello’s boyfriend, Big Brad—as he is affectionately called and to differentiate the two—demolished at a construction jobsite he was working on.
“My hope is to make these spaces look pretty industrial, maybe even a little skuzzy, but then you enter it, and it’s a whole new thing. I’m really into ready-mades right now, so I don’t know if I want to touch it all that much, but my tendency is toward crazy embellishment, so who knows how it’ll develop.”
Regardless of the stark nature his newest project may take on, Capello recalls the words of a design professor who once told him in his first year at UH: “There is no such thing as an ugly color, just an ugly context.”
See what Capello is up to at Spalding House, located in Honolulu at 2411 Makiki Heights Dr. Then make a day of art explorations and visit all of The Honolulu Museum of Art’s properties, which feature some of the world’s finest international artists, traditional Asian and Hawaiian art, and contemporary works. For more information, visit honolulumuseum.org.