“They suggested that the museum create an exhibit that featured Tiki art and artifacts,” she said. “They also recommended that I ask renowned Tiki art expert Douglas Nason to serve as guest curator. I took their recommendation, and the result is the outstanding exhibit that you see here.”
Nason has a background in cultural anthropology and has traveled Oceania researching icons and how they illustrate human figures and how they are used in ancient and contemporary art, he said.
“The tikis represent the leader of a clan or ancestral lineage,” he said. “They are a spiritual representation of how their ancestors looked. The creators believe they are deified or folk heroes.”
Tikis can be figurative stone or wood carvings or two-dimensional tapa cloth with designs applied with dye made from plant materials, or petroglyphs, which are two-dimensional designs etched on rocks with shark or dog teeth, Nason said.
The exhibition has three components: Traditional Tiki, original artifacts from the islands; Tiki Americana, or items that illustrate mid-century American’s enchantment with the South Seas, and the Tiki Bar movement; and Contemporary Tiki, which is the art created by 21st century artists who have embraced the tiki icon in three-dimensional sculptures and two-dimensional illustrations.
There are 130 items in the show, Nason said.
About one-third of the Traditional Tiki pieces belongs to Nason and includes photographs he has taken of Easter Island, the Marquesas and Tonga, he said.
A major contributor to the Tiki Americana display is Oceanic Arts Tropical Decor in Whittier, owned by Robert A. Van Oosting and LeRoy E. Schmaltz.