How The West Side Inspires Artist Eduardo Bolioli

“The west side is the best side,” says artist Eduardo Bolioli, who was born in Uruguay, raised in Switzerland, started his art career in Honolulu, and now lives in Makakilo. “It’s always sunny and the winds are always offshore.”

Bolioli draws inspiration from local beaches and local people, and that makes him an ideal artist-in-residence at Four Seasons Ko Olina. The program supports local artists, and gives guests a chance to see unique perspectives on the history and landscapes of West Oʻahu.

What: Eduardo Bolioli, Artist in Residence: Pop Up Exhibition and Meet and Greet
Where: Four Seasons, The Bar at Hōkūleʻa (off the main lobby)
When: Saturday, 12/8, 4pm
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When I met with Bolioli recently at the hotel, he was coming off of a 30-hour multi-leg plane trip from Uruguay, combined with an early wake up call to appear on a TV morning show. Still, he brimmed with enthusiasm about his current show “My Surreal Island Life” and his future one “West Side Stories.”

My Surreal Island Life

“When you go underwater, it’s so surreal. There’s no sound, the fish floating around you. It feels like you’re in outer space.”

The vibrant colors and motion of this series reflects Bolioli’s experiences around Hawaiʻi beaches. Makua Beach out past Waiʻanae is one of his favorites. “Makua Beach is unreal,” he says. “It’s also very sad to see plastic everywhere.” Humanity’s relationship to nature is another major theme of the series.

Some of the work depicts specific humans, like spearfisher Kimi Werner, and model Malia Murphey.

Malia and the Floating ʻAma ʻAma by Eduardo Bolioli Malia and the Floating ʻAma ʻAma by Eduardo Bolioli

Bolioli was inspired by a photo of Murphey he saw on Instagram.

“The look in her eyes was so intense,” he says. “Like what a panther would look like before it jumps on its prey.” She’s surrounded by ʻama ʻama, a small fish that gathers in big schools that can pool and swim around you in the water.

West Side Stories

“You shouldn’t go to the west side. You’re so haole they’re gonna beat you up.”

That’s what Bolioli’s friends told him the first time he went surfing in Mākaha, in the 1980s.

“So, I get out on the water,” he remembers. “And this guy looks at me. He says: ‘Go bruddah! Go! Go!’ He gave me a wave! It was Buffalo Keaulana.”

Bolioli became friends with Buffalo, a leader of the Hōkūleʻa’s first voyage, and his sons Brian Keaulana, a legendary lifeguard, and Rusty Keaulana, a champion longboard surfer.

His West Side Stories exhibition will draw inspiration from the Keaulanas and other legends of the west side like Rell Sunn, the women’s surfing pioneer, community health advocate and “Queen of Mākaha” who died in 1998 at age 48 after a 15-year battle with breast cancer.

“You would see her surfing and say ‘I’m in love,'” says Bolioli. “She was like a goddess out there. And when you met her you felt the same way. You’d never hear anyone say anything bad about her. Everything was positive.”

Some of Bolioli’s own experiences will be part of the series, too-Mākaha is where he asked his wife to marry him.

Bolioli will work on these and other pieces during his residency at the Four Seasons, which will be celebrated with a meet and greet on Saturday.

He likes to continually innovate with his art, because his tastes are always changing.

“That’s why I don’t own any paintings, and I don’t have tattoos.”