Graffiti has a long history of being done in precarious places. In New York, street artists have climbed higher and higher to avoid clean up crews, often climbing twenty stories and painting with ropes and harnesses to covey their message to the world. In parts of Nevada, billboard vandals climb fences and scale tall poles to spread their messages of anti-consumerism. But in Hawaii, one artist is getting his street art out to the world in a precarious place, and it all looks amazing.
But what Sean Yoro, aka Hula, does can hardly be called street art. Probably a more appropriate term would be “waterway art.” Instead of climbing or traversing or hopping, Hula paddles out on his surfboard, scouting locations that are visible to the casual passerby but are difficult to approach. And, with his board fully loaded with paints and brushes, he sets about giving the sea-line of Hawaii something beautiful.
Hula is a master of the female form and almost every single one of his surfboard murals features a bathing woman. Each one is completely unique, a bust of a woman enjoying the warm ocean, and they are all singularly beautiful. Hula’s attention to detail to a point of near-photorealism gives the murals a certain depth and allure. He also frequently incorporates small symbols on the women’s bodies, a callback to his Hawaiian roots.
Hula is now based in New York and turning much of his attention to indoor art, art that requires just as many paints and brushes, but a lot less paddles and surfboards. His indoor work avoids the usual canvas of, well, actual canvas, and instead uses unusual surfaces as a base. It only seems appropriate that a man who made his name painting the sides of docks would not be comfortable painting on normal surfaces. In some cases, Hula uses wood for his paintings, allowing his figures to flow over the natural ebb and flow of the rings. In others, he uses surfboards for cool and unique designs, a way he originally made money when he career was just launching.
Hula’s art is beautiful, focused, and turns up in the most unusual of locations. It speaks to a few histories: Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage, Hula’s own personal history as a surfer and painter, and to street art’s ongoing relationship with the spaces they choose to paint and alter with their artistic designs. In the case of Hula, he uses all three to make docks and other water spaces striking and, well, quite a bit sexier. Worse things have happened than having a beautiful woman swimming in the ocean in Hawaii. And all it took to get there was a surfboard.