Bene Michelle Cambra – Art Fueled by passion for motorcycles

Thursday June 1, 2017

I sat down with Bene one beautiful Maui afternoon at a popular Kihei joint. I had previously seen her artwork and most recently, at a First Friday in Wailuku where the community converges to mingle, appreciate, savor and otherwise enjoy the showcase event. It was there where I saw and actually succumbed to my tactile instincts to actually feel her artwork. Her originals are spellbinding pieces of imagination allowed expression to its fullest. Picture this, a motorcycle body transformed into a psychedelic mix of layers of lines and colors, forms and textures. It is not easy to verbalize description, thus, the pictures accompanying this piece serve as the narratives themselves.

Born in the bay area but came back to her roots in Maui sometimes in 2007, Bene Michelle Cambra comes from a long line of immigrants (originally the de Cambra family) from San Miguel, Portugal who settled on the island in the 1870’s. She was raised in the Bay area and returned to her roots in 2007 following an impressive route blazing path with her motorcycle inspired art forms in Los Angeles.

One of her highlight projects was to participate in a fund raiser event to benefit Muscular Dystrophy, a charity which featured Jay Leno as the Grand Marshall in 2004. It was a celebrity turnout among motorcycle aficionados which included Dick Messer, then the Executive Director of the world famous Peterson Auto Museum in LA among many other luminaries. He won the bid for two of four pieces of Bene’s originals which were put up for auction by Butterfield, the prestigious international auction house. These pieces were signed by participants of note. The “Handlebar Table” and “Motorcycle Bar Stool” have the handwritten autographs of the likes of George Barris aka the “King of Custom” who is credited with the creation of the Bat Mobile (the late Adam West rode this in his heyday) and the popular “Munsters” car. He also worked on the car of James Dean. Joining Barris at the gathering were Robbie Knievel from the famous family of daredevil acts and Dan Haggarty who designed and built the original “Easy Rider” motorcycle in the movie of the same title.

The Messer collections went on exhibit at the Peterson Motor Museum. The “Motorcycle Gas Tank” table is signed by the “Love Ride 21” celebs and is part of Bene’s personal collection. “Tailpipe Chair” was destined for the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, Alabama where it proudly sits on permanent display. “Black Karma” is a ‘resident’ of Maui where it scooted its way into hearts and minds at (Mick) Fleetwood’s Lahaina Gallery in west Maui after which it sat and regaled audiences visiting the Shaffer Gallery in Maui’s Arts and Cultural Center.

“Hot Lava” is the ‘piece de resistance’ which I could not resist touching as I held it in awe at the Stepping Stones Gallery (with proper permission from the artist!) in Wailuku. It is on offer for its artistic value at 22K and the picture will speak for itself in those terms. From the corner of my eye, I glanced at an arresting original acrylic metal etching piece titled “Firebird” (a Bird of Paradise with a $350.00 price tag) which simply expanded my appreciation of Bene’s world as she views it. This visual directed me to her miniature ‘prototypes’ which can be translated into full scale sized art. These are “blueprints” of sorts with interesting themes ranging from the Martini Bar, Artist Easel, Aquarium, Cigar Bar, and a Tattoo Chair!

Bene’s passion for her art is matched only by her zeal to focus her attention towards helping those in need, those without a voice, children, and animal welfare. The gallery where “Hot Lava” is on display helps the cause of the non-profit organization, Mental Health Kokua of Maui.

She finds support and inspiration in her partner, Roxy, a former US Army Sgt. who, with her bold and forward thinking style, has been instrumental in molding the art and the artist that has transformed into Bene Michelle Cambra as she is now.

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