Sunday, June 26, 2011

This IS Hawai'i

Where: National Museum of the American Indian

When: through July 4, 2011

This exhibit features the work of three artists who show the "real" Hawai'i, as opposed to the vision of happy natives wearing leis and living in harmony, the Hollywood version of Hawai'i with which we are all familiar. The exhibit is being put on in conjunction with the Transformer Gallery. The work of Carl F.K. Pao is on display in the Museum's Sealaska Gallery; a sculpture by Puni Kukahiko is currently outside the museum - more of her work is at the Transformer; Solomon Enos has pieces at both the Transformer and at the Museum.

I really enjoyed Pao's Post-Historic Museum of the Possible Aboriginal Hawaiian. It's a hilarious send-up of archeology and anthropology. He displays common items with "explanations" of their use. My favorite was the black styrofoam cooler, which was described as a "possible ceremonial storage container." A Weber kettle grill was also featured - heck, I've got one of those on my deck. Who knew my house was a treasure trove of Hawaiian artifacts? All in all, really funny and thought provoking.

Some of Enos's work is on display here as well; it is a reimagining of history "if Hawaiians ruled the world." It made me think that every culture/religion/ethnic group thinks it could do a better job than those who have ruled the world - impossible to tell, but my guess is different groups would do things differently, but not necessarily better. Enos' work appeared in graphic novel form in the Honolulu Advertiser from 2006 - 2009.

It's a good thing there was a picture of Kukahiko's sculpture in the gallery, or I would have missed it entirely. When you leave the Museum, walk around the building to your right. It's a lovely carving, but it's small and easy to overlook.

Verdict: Go see this small show - it's worth the trip for Pao alone.

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