The CSUN Art Gallery is hosting “Island Affinities: Contemporary Art of Oceania,” an exhibit of contemporary artwork from the south Pacific, which opened to the public on Jan. 29.
The exhibition is the result of a collaborative effort between CSUN professor Peri Klemm and her exhibition design class, and Jewel Castro, a Samoan artist and art professor at Mira Costa College.
The exhibit features a variety of art forms, including paintings, sculptures, video and studio art by 14 artists, including Castro.
“What is cool about this art is that it is contemporary but takes its style from the traditional art,” said Briana Simmons, a graduate student who worked alongside Klemm and Castro on the exhibit. “When we say ‘traditional art,’ people think of old, ancient things found under dust at museums. (Traditional) art is far from static.”
The cultures represented in the show are from Samoa, Tonga, Hawaii and Papua New Guinea.
“The (exhibit) looks at traditional roles but also at gender roles of today,” Simmons said. “Some of the themes behind the artwork are gender, of course, but also family and spirituality.”
“It represents women of Samoan history and their progression,” Castro said, when asked about her piece “Red House: The Daughters of Salamasina,” which took one and a half years to complete. “When I started this piece I didn’t have a specific woman in mind, but as the project continued I read more about Queen Salamasina, who united all of the islands under one leader for the first time.”
Samoan culture is very in touch with the environment, and traditional Samoan homes give the feeling of being both indoors and outdoors at the same time, Castro said.
“We are pretty fortunate to have as many women artists participate because they are so underrepresented in the (Samoan) culture,” Klemm said. “It was only after the Western influence took place that women became more represented.”
An opening reception was held on Feb. 1 and the evening began with a performance of traditional Hawaiian chanting, a form of prayer.
A traditional Kava ceremony, which includes the preparation of a drink made from Kava roots, followed later in the evening and was led by Semisi Ma’u, a Tongan native and former professor at University of California in San Diego.
Outside the gallery, Ma’u and his son, Keli Ross-Ma’u, played Bula, a type of music created by Ma’u himself.
Bula, which means “hello” in Fiji, is an eclectic mixture of American and Polynesian music.
“I take advantage of living in this country and bringing my culture here,” Ma’u said. “(Bula) is a mix of traditional and contemporary music.”
The exhibit will close on March 1 with an artist workshop led by Rosanna Raymond, whose work is featured in the exhibit. The workshop will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will be followed by a closing reception and performance, held later that evening from 6 to 8 p.m.
The CSUN Main Art Gallery is open Monday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., except on Thursdays, when the hours are noon to 8p.m. The exhibit is free.
Artwork can be viewed on the exhibit Web site, www.csun.edu/art/IslandAffinities/index.html.