WISH YOU WERE HERE: A Q&A WITH THE ARTIST MATT TAPIA
August 15, 2016
Born and raised on the island of O‘ahu, Matt Tapia ventured to New York City to cut his teeth in design and ended up working with clients like Ecko and Nike. Though the self-trained designer has only been creating murals and participating in POW! WOW! Hawaii for a few years, the “Wish You Were Here” message painted at the bottom of the pool here at Surfjack has created quite a buzz. In collaboration with Wall to Wall, Tapia was able to turn the Surfjack’s pool into an oversize postcard, creating a picture-perfect view for guests looking down from their balcony.
Fellow visual artist and filmmaker Vincent Ricafort caught up with Tapia to talk about his recent collaboration with the Surfjack.
RICAFORT: You just finished the project at the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, it was one of the bigger art commissions. What is it like working as an artist in Hawaii‘i?
TAPIA: It’s just like working as an artist anywhere else I guess, you know? You go to work everyday and try to make it work. I was born and raised here so it’s nice to be home and working, making a living, not having to travel someplace else to try to carve out a piece of the pie for myself. I like it. Project’s like this are rare and I think if I wasn’t here I might not have had this opportunity. There’s a lot of really cool stuff going on at the Surfjack—from different artist collaborations, to the opening of Mahina & Suns and contributions from Vanguard Theory.
RICAFORT: What was the opportunity of working with the Surfjack like?
TAPIA: It was cool, everyone there was nice, the schedule was chaotic, but I guess that’s how it goes when you open a hotel. I’ve never had that experience before. Aside from crazy late nights, it was a cool experience.
RICAFORT: What were some of the challenges working on the mural for the hotel? Have you done anything like this before?
TAPIA: This was my third mural ever in my life. I’ve never painted on a pool either. As I approached the project I knew it was going to take more than just jumping in the pool and slapping some paint down, just because of the fact that the canvas is different. It’s not a wall somewhere that people are rarely going to touch. It’s at the bottom of a pool with over a bus full of water pushing down on the artwork every single day. After doing some research, I realized it was a unique problem that I had to find a solution for. Implementing it was a lot more work than I expected, but that’s kind of the fun of what I do. I try to find good, quality solutions to unique problems, implementing artwork and design on the world.
RICAFORT: I think the result speaks for itself. What do you hope the audience takes away from this work?
TAPIA: I just hope that it’s enjoyed. That’s what it was put there for—for people to see it and to evoke some kind of emotional response and hopefully lead to a connection with someone they know with someone far away that might get them to the islands as well. It’s a great place to be and Surfjack is a great addition to the landscape.