comscore A celebration of Pacific talent | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

A celebration of Pacific talent

    "Gift of Rain" by Sue Pearson.
    "Kukakuka" by Carl F.K. Pao at the "Celebrating Connections: An Exhibition of Contemporary Pacific Artists."

In curating an exhibition of artwork from across the Pacific, Carl F.K. Pao dealt with a gamut of artists: everyone from international art superstars to those living so remotely they were barely reachable.

"I’d have to communicate through other people, like, ‘Did you see so-and-so?’ and I’d give them messages to give to the artist," he says. "These guys have no e-mail, but I found out some of them have Facebook!"

Pao put together "Celebrating Connections: An Exhibition of Contemporary Pacific Artists" as part of festivities for the 60th anniversary of the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawaii.


An exhibition of Contemporary Pacific artists

On exhibit: Through Nov. 27, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays

Where: The ARTS at Marks Garage, 1159 Nuuanu Ave.

Call: 521-2903


Pao is arts editor of the Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs, and the art exhibit features 17 artists whose work has graced the journal’s covers over the past eight years.

"I wanted to use the celebration to bring attention to contemporary Pacific art. There’s such a wealth and vibrancy of Pacific artists," he says. "These artists are well known where they come from; they’re well collected and well respected, especially in New Zealand. Yet we have no exposure to them here. We’re very American-centric."

Pao says he sees Hawaiian artists struggling to understand their identity, while in contrast, artists in other parts of the Pacific don’t have that issue at all. He says it’s visible in their work.

"There’s a strength of knowing the self, where you’re from."

In New Zealand the struggle over identity came a generation earlier, during the 1950s and ’60s.

"They were the first ones to become legitimate through the academic lens. They have the paperwork behind them, and now they’re commonplace," Pao says.

He believes the reason Hawaiian artists aren’t at that point yet is because of the larger community’s attitude toward art. The differences between our perspective and that of New Zealand are striking, Pao says.

"In New Zealand the general community supports art. Young entrepreneurs are buying art; it’s aesthetically commercial," he says. "Artists are a vital part of the community. There’s value in art."


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