Last night was the opening of “‘Ili Iho: The Surface Within” at Bishop Museum. Curated by Maile Andrade, the exhibition invited eight Hawaiian artists to explore four ancestral treasures—a feathered cape, a makaloa mat, kapa and a protest quilt—through their own work. As this blog has mentioned before, many Academy employees are talented artists and Maika‘i Tubbs, the Academy’s coordinator of Bank of Hawaii Family Sunday, has taken his work to a new level for this impressive exhibition that includes Maile Andrade, Carl Pao and Kapulani Landgraf. His installation “Erasure” is visually stunning, a minimalist white “forest” made from melted cassette tape shells. On each protruding branch sits an o‘o, an extinct indigenous bird whose feathers were used to make capes. The bird was wiped out by the introduction of mosquitos to Hawai‘i by a sailing ship in 1826 (thanks a lot!) and habitat loss. Each o‘o is made from crocheted cassette tape, which Tubbs made during breaks, lunch hours and any other free time he could steal. There are so many levels of meaning going on—paradise lost, obsolescence, cultural unraveling—that are pertinent to Hawai‘i and Hawaiians, yet are universal in scope. This is a work that would stand out in any contemporary art show, anywhere.

Aaron Padilla, Assistant Curator of Education at the Academy and talented artist himself (his “Over and Under” won the Award of Excellence in the current “Hawaii Craftsmen: Fiber Art Hawaii 2008,” and the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts bought it), made an “o‘o lei” for Maika‘i, featuring yellow feathers. Don’t miss “‘Ili Iho.”