Henry Navarro is inspired by conflict — the relationship between humanity and nature, ideas and reality, individuals and groups.
“My art functions as sort of experimental space where I try to flesh out the nature and meaning of phenomena and situations,” he says. It’s a struggle that, fortunately for us, blends the abstract with the beautiful. And while the divergence is expressed in every media Navarro employs — through painting, sculpting, or filming — fashion is where he says he gets immediate satisfaction.
“People who normally would not be interested in art, let alone contemporary artwork, feel a lot more at ease with my fashion-based projects,” he says. Navarro’s fashion-based public art pieces are interactive projects that help to develop relationships between those who participate and the community, a gratifying collaboration he continues to foster as an instructor.
Currently a faculty member of Communication, Arts, and Design at Ryerson University in Toronto, the Cuba native has installed site-specific public art shows around the world. A 2012 show, called “Mis-Measured Structures” and held at Bromwell’s Gallery in Cincinnati, featured large-scale paintings alongside fashion-based installations that were inspired by Cincinnati. He says being at Ryerson gives him opportunities to explore and engage students in the kind of practice-based teaching and interdisciplinary research he is interested in.
Navarro will bring his place-based philosophy to Hawaii as a mentor in the Hawaii Fashion Exchange (or HFX), first as a guest speaker at HIFI Connects during Hawaii Fashion Month in November, 2014, and returning in the summer of 2015 to work with HIFI and the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Fashion Design and Merchandising program.
Navarro’s classes and workshops will provide local designers with tools and strategies to create and promote their designs and product. In a nod to his passion for conflict, Navarro says Hawaii fashion defies the stereotypes that the rest of the world has created and that is what fascinates him. “The fact that such a small place is so culturally complex, diverse, and full of paradoxes makes it very attractive to me,” he says.
During November’s Hawaii Fashion Month, Navarro will announce his next public art project, “Aloha Na‘au” — a fashion collection designed, produced, and promoted locally, made out of local materials, using local inspirations, and featuring young local talent as co-creators. He has previously produced similar projects called “Grey Cincinnati,” “Femme Universalis,” and “SituOzuOne.”
As Navarro describes it, “Aloha Na‘au” will hopefully encourage youth of Polynesian background who live in Hawaii to provide input as fashion designers, models, makeup artists, photographers, graphic designers, and even music producers, and make them aware of their value to their communities. He hopes they will collaborate in every aspect of the creative process “while having a space to creatively reflect on their Polynesian heritage and their contribution to the social and cultural fabric of contemporary Hawaii.”
“Aloha Na‘au” will conclude with a public fashion show in the summer of 2015.