Written by: Zuzu Kelly Perkal
Shay Macancheez AKA Pono is a visual artist currently living and working in Austin, TX. His artist name, Pono is a Hawaiian word that means ‘Righteousness’. Throughout his life and artistic career he’s spent time in the city life as well as the open range. His mom was in the city and his dad lived in the country, so he grew up with the best of both worlds, “at any given time either place served as my refuge”.
He’s used drawing and painting as a creative outlet throughout his life but things changed after his experience on the Big Island, Hawaii in 2010. “Pele is no joke, she will forge you in the fire and burn away the impurities. What happened on that island seven years ago reconnected me with something deeper than I knew before.It changed my life and I’ve been runnin’ ever since”.
We asked Pono where his unique style was derived from and how he describes it when talking to others. He told us about his move to Portland, Oregon in 2005 where he was introduced to an artist by the name of Sheldon Skillie, who was of Haida and Lakota heritage. “We became friends and roommates and would draw and collaborate in our free time. Sheldon introduced me to ‘formline’, which is the Haida technique of drawing. Being from west Texas and working cattle ranches all of my life, I’ve always been drawn to the southwest landscape and native cultures that once thrived in the somewhat unforgiving environment. My Grandfather, Angelo instilled in me a great respect for all those who have come before us, the shared path of life and death.
Pono is an amalgamation of all things, symbols and characters, comical folklore that begs and borrows and steals what is necessary to create the narrative. Currently exploring the human condition through characters that can be related to every day life, often impaled and ridden with bullets or arrows. Pono is a dumb luck anti-hero that seeks the truth despite the traps and nature of the world we currently inhabit. It will persevere, even through death. It is a myth, but Pono is also yourself.
The Haida people didn’t have a word for art. It was just a part of everyday life. There was no object or shelter left untouched by paint or chisel in their culture. Art is now and has always been an idea. We convince people to gawk and purchase white canvases for god’s sake. It wasn’t the beauty of the white canvas that sold itself; it was the idea that it means something. I don’t know how many times I’ve painted over one of my pieces and later see a picture of the original, and really want to kick myself in the ass. The fear of failure is there until you accept failure as an everyday reality. Competition is an illusion. Our society has made art a commodity like toilet paper, a refrigerator or a ceiling fan”.
As many of our artist’s have shared in their interviews Pono expresses that “it’s important to not take yourself so seriously. Art is an adventure that only you, as your one-of-a-kind self can explore and create in the way that only YOU can. It’s also important to surround yourself with friends and peers who are all on their own personal path to wherever the hell they are going.”
Pono also shares the importance of knowing your self worth and not falling into the habit of comparing yourself to others, “it only leads to jealousy and self-doubt, neither which are good for letting the soul flow.”
We asked what inspired him to create art…
Inspiration is as fickle and fleeting as a Christmas morning snow in Texas. I believe inspiration is a mine in your spirit and it’s up to you to keep digging and digging. You have to mine that inspiration from your soul, dude.
Maintaining economic stability as an artist is always a challenge. Being an artist is a constant grind and hustle. It’s easy to get lost along the way, but SprATX hopes that all artists find their way back home. Pono lost his way along the path in the last couple of years. Life happens! He decided to make things happen again, “grease the gears and receive the transmissions that were blocked by the drudgery of mediocre living”. He’s now focused on building a studio, off the grid, rustic, as cheap as possible. “This little studio and somewhat livable RV are going to be my spaceship. Art life is an ebb and flow. It’s like a tennis match. You hit the ball a thousand times in every game, but the goal is to get the last hit”.
Pono describes his work as, “violent, but harmless”. He asks the viewer to imagine “being comfortable in your air-conditioned home, surrounded by a buffet of all the delicious food you crave, with your loved ones. There is a war going on outside just across the river. This war will never intrude into your comfortable home. As comfortable and satiated that you can ever be, sometimes you ask yourself ‘what is going on out there?’ One day you saddle your horse and grab your sword and decide ‘I’m gonna find out’. You find the battle but you never find home again.”