ke ‘aka o ka li’ula (mirage): On the impact of tourism on the land lifestyle and people of Hawai’i (2006)

Center for Design and Visual Culture, UMBC, Catonsville, MD, April 2006. Materials: organza, pvc, lights, slide projection, wood, paper, dried lei flowers, hotel soaps, cd players, speakers, original audio, plumeria scent, 13' high x 12' wide.

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Land. Sea. Perhaps no more striking juncture of these worlds exists than in the imaginations of visitors to Hawai’i longing for a lost “Eden.” The continuing attraction of these islands represents centuries of yearnings among vastly differing groups of peoples.

The majority of my work during my Master’s program has been in the form of mixed media installation that have reflected my research, analysis and critique of the impact of tourists and tourism on the land, lifestyle and people of Hawai’i. My thesis exhibition, ke aka o ka li’ula/mirage, consists of fabricated "hotel” structures containing speakers and "islands" made of hotel soaps and dead lei flowers enclosed in circular curtained structure with early 20th century images of Hawai’i projected upon it. The globally based visitor industry sells a certain vision of paradise; with this installation I conjure such an environment and use it subversively to expand non-resident awareness of the issues confronting island residents.

I do not advocate that banishing tourism from Hawai’i will solve our problems. Rather, I believe that the tourist industry and the local government must take into account the views of island residents, and must be held accountable for considering all issues, rather than only profits, when deciding to forge ahead in the garden of greater visitors. I also believe that tourists need to be educated to better understand their impact upon the place and people that they visit, and consider traveling with a lighter footstep. As a politicized artist, both of these goals – to raise outsider’s awareness and to encourage resident’s activism - are of critical importance to me, and represent what I hope to accomplish through my work.

2006 MFA Thesis directed by Dr. Kathy O’Dell, Associate Professor, Department of Visual Arts/Assistant Dean, UMBC

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