The bedroom houses works by Henry Jackson, Ellen von Unwerth, Adam Fuss, Alex Katz, Nathan Oliveira and Stephen De Staebler

Altered State of Seeing

For Kelly Sueda, selecting works is an introspective art.

A QUICK GLANCE AT THE ART-CLAD WALLS AND IMPECCABLY ARRANGED FURNITURE, IT’S EASY TO CONCLUDE THIS WAS AN art collector’s home-or at the very least, a home belonging to someone with an appreciation for it. But the house of an artist? There were no traces of half-empty paint tubes, dirty brushes or rolls of unstretched canvas lurking in some corner room. Apparently, artistic and uncluttered are not mutually exclusive-not for Kelly Sueda. Should a picture paint a thousand words, those displayed in his Wilhelmina Rise residence say plenty about the person who selected them.

“When I look at [artists’ works], and if I see something that I can’t do or have a great appreciation for…I want a piece of it-I want to be reminded of it and incorporate it into my life,” says 40-year-old Sueda. Incorporate he does. From the salon-style arrangement in the bedroom to the eclectic pieces peppered throughout the living room, dining area and study, there are plenty of reminders that Sueda can continually reference. And after more than two decades of browsing and buying, one can imagine he’s accumulated an impressive assortment.

An accomplished artist in his own right, Sueda, born and raised in Hawai’i, has long been immersed in the art world, both as a painter and art curator. And he is no stranger to the Honolulu Museum of Art-having taken a stab at co-chairing last year’s Kama’aina Christmas and now chairing this year’s Contempo event, solo. But even before his career took flight in those arenas, when it came to collecting, the “collector bug” had bitten Sueda at a very early age. “My whole life i was like that,” Sueda explains. “I remember as a kid, I’d always have a collection of posters… right after I graduated high school, I had this kick of wanting to collect pipes-old, wooden pipes.”

From posters and pipes to shells and baseball cards, it seems that focusing his attention on particular items came naturally. But when he started a serious art collection, the childhood hobby evolved into a personal passion, which took root in during his days in the Academy of Art College in San Francisco and the University of San Francisco. The normal reaction most college grads have when their father decides to gift them with an automobile would be a resounding “thank you”. In Sueda’s case, he asked if he could purchase art in lieu of the car.

Three paintings of substantial worth jump-started his current collection of more than a hundred pieces of photography, paintings, sculpture and works on paper. Pieces by the likes of pop artists Ed Ruscha and Roy Lichtenstein; fellow local artist Cade Roster; photographer Ed Burtynsky; and abstract artist Richard Diebenkorn-Sueda’s personal favorite.

One would be hard-pressed to find some sort of common thread in this particular art collection-no genre constraints, century specifics or even regional limitations. “It’s more of a shotgun effect,” he says. “There’s no certain era or anything like that. For example, we have a Madge Tennent drawing, as well as pieces by young and up-and-coming artists.”

Though Sueda can’t pinpoint what his collection is-he jokes that randomness is something that he attracts-he knows what it isn’t: a trophy collection. His realization came in the earlier stages of art collecting. He recalls buying a well-known piece from an artist he knew personally, and in effect, relinquishing the piece he preferred (a lesser-known work from the same artist). “I spent thousands of dollars buying a painting that I couldn’t stand. But it was a great lesson for me… after that moment, I stopped buying anything for the sake of profiting from it.”

The fulfillment is purely personal. Sueda looks closely at pieces, studying their technique and composition. He cites Diebenkorn as an example: “How did he make all these mistakes-these drips that just kind of came down and landed in this perfect spot. They’re obviously accidents, but the whole thing just worked.” He adds, “Being an artist, you look at things differently than someone who isn’t. The pieces that I love wouldn’t necessarily be the more well-known pieces from their series of work, but to me-when I see it-I wonder how they did it.”

It is Sueda’s ability to look inward that makes his collection stand out.

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