I have been taken by wonder. The current exhibition at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Schaefer International Gallery is indeed wondrous. Artist-in-residence Wes Bruce has built a full-size fort inside the 4,000-square-foot gallery, using materials collected locally. "Taken By Wonder" is more than an exhibition; it's an experience. An interactive, inspirational journey of imagination. At once, it is stimulating and soothing, playful and pensive. And a little spooky.
I'd heard and read bits and pieces about the giant installation at the MACC and the young man who had spent the summer immersing himself in the wonders of Maui, gathering the components of his construction while also working as a teaching artist. My curiosity was piqued by what sounded like a really cool exhibition for kids, and I made a mental note to pop by for a quick look. Then I forgot all about it.
Last Sunday, after nearly a week of being sick in bed, my back was aching and the rest of me was itching to get out of the house and DO something . . . but not too strenuous, because I still carried remnants of this nasty respiratory bug. I decided to go for a walk, but on my way to Keopuolani Park, I saw the MACC roadside marquee for "Taken By Wonder," and curiosity got the better of me. It may not qualify as exercise, but strolling through an art exhibit is better than lying in bed, I thought.
Good thing I kept my running shoes on. I ended up climbing ropes and navigating narrow wooden steps to second-floor turrets. I crawled through not-so-secret passageways and crouched in darkened nooks and crannies. Built with used lumber and furnished with a mind-boggling assortment of found and donated items, the fort fulfilled my childhood fantasies and flooded my mind with memories.
The black-and-white snapshots on the walls looked like the photos tucked away in my grandfather's steamer trunk; the plantation-era tools and household items reminded me of my grandmother's house on Chickenet Farm Road in Haiku. Bottles and bones, books and toys, leather scraps and weather maps, odds and ends of every sort, all gathered here on Maui and now fitting perfectly into place in this wonderful space, purportedly a dwelling structure built - and left - by a little-known contemporary society.
Wes Bruce's artist statement tells of a truth-seeking, worship-filled culture that loved others and loved the earth; grateful, resourceful, passionate people. They used their imaginations and strived to grow smaller, rather than expand. Their origins and their fate are a mystery, but they did leave numerous messages like "Listen" and "Stay Curious," written in a series of pictograms.
That was my favorite part, wandering and wondering through the maze of tiny rooms to locate and decode the writings on the walls. Don't worry, the MACC docents will gladly give you a key to the code and loan you a flashlight. Trust me, you'll need that flashlight to find all of the scrawled statements.
You'll also need a fair amount of time to fully enjoy and appreciate the installation. I spent over an hour there and I'm going back for more. And I haven't even mentioned the hands-on creativity corner or the display of thought-provoking collages.
"Taken By Wonder" may be visited through Nov. 2, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. After that, Nov. 4 through 7, during the public deinstallation, you can select a piece of the exhibit to take home and repurpose. You can also go online and visit thecuriouslife.us to learn more about Wes Bruce and his art. His blog features delightful photographic and poetic observations of Maui, and you can follow him on Instagram.
After checking out his website, I looked up "wonder" at Dictionary.com. The first two definitions are:
1. To think or speculate curiously.
2. To be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe.
I have been taken by wonder. And by the art and whimsy of Wes Bruce. I hope to meet him at the deinstallation. I want to thank him for the awesome reminder to stay curious.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.