Now Playing

Marinelli checks out the forecast at Spreckelsville Beach on Maui.

Winds of Change

by Shannon Wianecki | Hawai'i magazine | September 6, 2012

Maia Marinelli is an irrepressible force of nature. And if anyone were going to invent a portable playground that channels wind to generate electricity, it’d be this 36-year-old Italian dynamo who’s thrived in the elements since childhood. Raised aboard her parents’ sailboat in the Mediterranean, she was trimming her own sails by age 7 and racing competitively shortly thereafter.

Eventually, art won out over her prospects for the Olympics, and the modern-day renaissance woman earned art degrees from Italy and NYU. Blending her divergent passions, she began making art informed by the physics of sailing. Now, her photographs and atmospheric sculptures have swept through the U.S., Italy and Germany.

Six years ago, the nomad chased the wind to Maui’s North Shore, where she fell in love with windsurfing. Now, in her Ha‘ikū studio, she’s busy stitching together her most ambitious sculpture to date. “I’ve been working with the idea of transforming invisible forces like wind or barometric pressure into tactile and immersive installations,” she says. When complete, her “Wind Playground” (windplayground.com) will be a two-story-tall structure fashioned out of recycled wind- and kite-surfing sails. Harnessing the Venturi effect—a jet phenomenon discovered, ironically, by an Italian—the audience-friendly piece will direct the breeze across futuristic arcs and through tunnels. Her ultimate goal: a mobile, wind-based energy system that can aggregate energy even on windless days. As “Wind Playground” comes closer to fruition, Marinelli is already plotting her next project: a performance piece in the Australian Outback.

Marinelli’s Hots
Raw sea urchins, free-diving to look at the ocean’s surface from beneath, fishermen, harbors, traveling, learning, snuggling, intensity, people who can weather storms

Marinelli’s Nots
Paparazzi culture; rules and people who blindly follow them; sweets (cakes, pastries and all that); greediness; arrogant surfers who go about screaming, “Get off my wave!”