Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ka mate! Ka ora!

A few days ago I went to see the Seattle Art Museum's newest exhibit, Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise. I haven't studied much of Gauguin, except for the fact that he's a Post-Impressionist, so I was looking forward to seeing his work. The connection to the South Pacific was also appealing.

The really interesting aspect was that Marquesan and Maori art was displayed alongside Gauguin's - partly to give greater background into what influenced his work, and to give context for the cultures he encountered and painted (and sketched and wood-carved).

The "noble savage" idea definitely pervaded much of his work from Tahiti: Gauguin went in search of a mythical paradise that had already been plundered by the time he arrived and was probably never as idyllic as he projected it to be.

The connection to New Zealand was also very timely: Mi Madre just flew there to visit the nieces and neffy. A colleague of hers, who helps with community tax workshops, stopped by before she left and mentioned that a lot of Islanders try to claim other people's children as dependents on their tax deductions because culturally everybody shares responsibility for raising kids. So seeing Gauguin's "Tehamana Has Two Mothers" had a bit more personal meaning for me.

The colors are so vivid and gorgeous in almost all of Gauguin's paintings. I could practically feel myself amid tropical flowers and sun and heat.

By being displayed right next to Marquesan war club (those things are HUGE!) and intricate Maori carvings, Gauguin's work gained perspective and far more cultural and historical context than most paintings I've ever seen in art museums. I really appreciated that added depth!

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