Visual Art

Chances are if you’re sipping a mai tai from a wooden tiki cup while watching sexy hula dancers entertain, you’re not pondering the impoverished Pacific Island cultures from which this kitsch charade was exploited. But that is just what artists Iosefatu Sua and Darvin Vita hope to illuminate with their new show at downtown’s BLVD Gallery. By marrying the “shameful imagery from America’s past” (there are three K’s in “TiKKKi” for a reason) with a Polynesian aesthetic, the artists of Samoan and Filipino heritage, respectively, hope “to challenge…the disparity between reality and Tiki culture,” as reads their show statement. Though much of the imagery refers to the white-hooded supremacists of the Klan, Sua points out that, “technically, the show is not about the KKK, it’s referring back to the outdated American past,” just as the tiki décor at a luau is an outdated and condescending nod to island culture. Though Sua isn’t necessarily offended by America’s embracement of tiki as a party theme, he referenced a magazine picture in which a tiki was offering Spam on its penis to a hula girl—a complete removal and disrespect of its religious iconography. Sua flips the script with pieces like an Islander wearing a necklace of thorny-crowned Jesus heads, and another holding a skull cup garnished not with decorative umbrellas but with the three crosses at Calvary. Not bad for the son of a Samoan Pentecostal preacher. What was that like growing up? “No music, unless it was Christian-based music. No TV, unless it was Christian TV. It’s kind of like Footloose,” Sua laughs. And it’s good to keep it light-hearted, because you’ll need your sense of humor when you see the designs of Imperial Wizard hoods made from coral and mollusks.

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