PAA at CAA, 2008 Session Description and Abstracts

Pacific Arts Association – Affiliated Organization Session
CAA (College Art Association) 96th Annual Conference
Dallas, Texas, February 20-23, 2008

Session: “Art and Identity in Oceania, Revisited”
Friday, February 22, 12:30-2:00
Dallas Ballroom, D2

In 1984 the Pacific Arts Association (PAA) held the Third International Symposium on the Arts of Oceania at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Many of the papers presented, subsequently published in Art and Identity in Oceania (edited by Allan Hanson and Louise Hanson, 1990), spoke to the range of ways individual and cultural identities are shaped and expressed through art and visual culture in Australia and the Pacific Basin. The PAA Affiliated Session at the 2008 College Art Association Annual Conference continues this discussion, exploring art and identity, particularly in colonial and postcolonial contexts, as processes of historical, spatial, cultural, and political location and dislocation. The papers address the following issues: how identities are produced through visual designations of culture, tradition, gender, or place; the impact of colonial settlement, migration, or travel on the ways individual and/or group identities (and their incumbent contradictions, collaborations, and ambiguities) are situated, asserted, or resisted through the visual; and how historical narratives are imaged and/or futures are envisioned at different times and places in Oceania.

The Kilohana Art League: Americanizing Hawaiian Art and Culture, 1894-1913
Speaker: Stacy L. Kamehiro, History of Art and Visual Culture Dept., University of California, Santa Cruz

I am researching identity positioning in colonial Hawai‘i by examining the Kilohana Art League, an association devoted to recasting Hawaiian cultural identity in the immediate post-monarchy period. I examine art works, minutes, newspaper clippings, and ephemera related to the League, the first formal arts organization dedicated to developing a Euro-American arts community in Hawai‘i. The founding of the League in 1894 followed the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by those harboring hopes for American annexation. Visual and textual documents reveal an aesthetic discourse emphasizing the “whiteness” of Hawai‘i that corresponded to contemporary proannexationist political discourses. Emphasizing its cultural sophistication and modernity, the League celebrated the present and future success of the nation in the able hands of primarily Euro-American missionary descendents and businessmen, implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) contrasting it with the character of the nation under Native Hawaiian rule. Though the League eventually established programs in theater, music, literature, and city beautification, I focus on its efforts to showcase and cultivate local visual arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, and photography) through bi-annual exhibitions, a permanent collection, lecture series, invitations to visiting artists, and an art history club.
Without Boundaries: Contemporary Oceania Artists, A Movement Happening Now
Speaker: Jewel Castro, Art Department, MiraCosta College and Mesa College

As an Oceania artist, my underlying process has to do with finding pathways toward a greater expression of how the term 'identity” has meaning for me. Recent curatorial endeavors, however, have made clear that contemporary Oceania artists are dealing with issues of identity on a variety of levels. Form, artistic process, exhibition design and interpretation, and personal descriptions come under unusual scrutiny due to, for instance, well established ethnographic study. In 2005 I curated the group exhibition, Turning Tides: Gender in Oceania Art at the University of California, San Diego. And, in 2006/7, I co-curated, with Dr. Peri Klemm, the exhibition Island Affinities: Contemporary Oceania Art at California State University, Northridge. Both exhibitions were large group shows featuring the work of contemporary Oceania artists based in Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Hawaii, New Zealand, England, and the United States.  In this paper I will refer to those exhibitions and my own work to encourage further discussion about a movement currently underway; a movement happening collectively among contemporary Oceania artists that challenges and repositions artificial concepts of identity in relationship to their art and interpretations of themselves.

Positioning Cultures: Contemporary Asian American, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Artists of Hawai’i
Speaker: Margo Machida, Art History and Asian American Studies, University of Connecticut               

My focus is on intertwining issues of art, culture, and identity formation. I work on contemporary Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander visual artists who use their work to position themselves in relation to the complex, often contentious geopolitical space of Hawai'i and its diverse peoples and histories. I profile art by three women of Native Hawaiian descent, Kaili Chun, Puni Kukahiko, and Adrienne Pao, and one artist of Filipino heritage, Tricia Lagaso Goldberg, to offer a comparative account of central ideas, experiences, and conditions that catalyzed their work, and the distinctive represenational strategies each artist has adopted to articulate her personal relationship to Hawai'i. I also consider the question of audience and the different tactics each has chosen to stimulate an active dialogue with those publics, whether through participatory site-specific installations, performance, or projects directed toward certain communities. Understanding culture as a primary ground for groups to assert social claims of citizenship, place, and belonging, and using artistic production as a primary lens, I suggest how different peoples, cultures, and belief systems converge in Hawai'i, and continue to mutually challenge and transform one  another.