WHO IS RUBEN AIRA JR?
Where the journey began...
Ruben Aira Jr. was born in Havana, Cuba. At a young age he and his family fled their island home and immigrated to the United States, ultimately settling in Maryland. Always encouraged by those who surrounded him, Ruben showed and early talent for art and has always known that being an artist was his life journey.
As a young man Ruben spent years traveling the world. First, backpacking around Europe and then hitchhiking across the United States. His travels ended when he moved to Hawaii in 1998, making the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii his new home. There, he has been continually inspired by the sea, the flora, and the fauna that populate the land. Though Ruben has been an artist his whole life he has worked in many different professions, from graphic artist to journeyman roofer, and Alaskan crab fisherman to textile designer. However, it wasn’t until 2015 that he decided to pursue his lifelong passion of creating art.
A new chapter...
The next chapter in Ruben's journey began in a house on top of Pupukea, where the earliest of his creations centered on the discovery of a new art form: the carving of surfboards whose glory days of riding waves had passed. He prided himself on creating art for the land from a product made for the ocean. This innovative art form has now become part of his family’s heritage, something to be passed down from one generation to the next as a timeless treasure.
As attention garnered for this new style, Ruben was invited by the World Surf League to design and create trophies for the Hawaiian Pro and Vans Triple Crown championships, an honor which he has served since 2016. It was at this time, that he was also awarded his first major gallery representations with Bill Wyland Galleries in Lahaina and Wy's Gallery in Haleiwa.
The following year, Ruben began participating in art exhibitions and auctions to benefit local community causes and charities -- such as the Art Auction for Waialua Community Association and the "Silent Empowerment" Art Exhibit at SALT at Kaka'ako -- making him a household name.
Ruben with "Siren"
The imagination blooms...
...and giving back
Ruben's original vision eventually inspired him to experiment with different materials, such as wood, stone, resin and cut paper, reimagining these items into one-of-a-kind artworks. His newest body of work consists of a series of sculptural reliefs intricately carved from high-density urethane and oftentimes coated with colorful layers of translucent oil paint. Currently, these multi-media paintings and sculptures can be found at galleries across the islands.
In collaboration with HIonART, Ruben has also published an educational video series called SURFBOARD: The Art of Ruben Aira. With the spirit of giving back to the community in mind, this masterclass series shares the secrets of his life's work in hopes of spreading the knowledge he developed while mastering this unique art form. The series is comprised of 7 full-length chapters that outline the tools and steps necessary to create carved surfboard works of art like those made for surfing legends Kelly Slater, John John Florence, Federico Morais, Jesse Mendes, Joel Parkinson and Griffin Colapinto.