Whenever I go to Spalding House, I am always awestruck by the natural beauty of the landscape as well as artwork. My proposal for my second Orvis Artist in Residency began as a reference to the pop art invasions of the Château de Versailles—Jeff Koons in 2008, and Takashi Murakami in 2010—that drew record numbers in attendance. Although I was not able to see these exhibitions, I have been to the lavish palace, and the events made me curious about what coaxes people to places that are already spectacular. I live in Waikiki and I am also an international flight attendant so I see how exoticism plays a heavy role in drawing the public to a tourist destination. My challenge then became how to connect Waikīkī and Versailles indirectly.
I began by thinking about the precisely planned European gardens and their almost static beauty. This brought on the construction of my maze out of pool rafts. I knew these colors would pop against the green of the lawn. I cut the inside of the rafts at their inflation seams and rolled up and attached neon cable ties to the rolls so they would not inflate. The blue became the most difficult because the pink creates an almost orange color at the seam while the green creates an almost yellow color and the blue just doesn’t have quite the neon effect for my eyes to distinguish the seam. I started cutting the pillow originally and was going to fill it with sand, and then changed that to water and have the pillow on the ground for stability. This might have been a more stable choice, but then the average adult could see over the top of it, and although they are transparent, there was something a little more claustrophobic and confusing by them being taller.
The wind became a much larger challenge than I expected. After a trial at Kapi‘olani Park, I realized that lawn stakes are not strong enough to hold the air-mattress panels despite the vented airflow. I had to resort to iron rebar and covered it with foam pool floats. I also placed eyelets at several points on each raft to prevent ripping. This amounted to 2,000 eyelets, and double that in cable ties.
I started with 200 rafts (thank you ABC Stores, which was very helpful and generous with a great discount). I probably ended up with at least 60 rebar and 100 lawn stakes.
At first, there was one entrance and one exit, but the wind has chosen its path and now there are several entrances and exits. I hadn’t intended for people to jump through the openings—but it now that the maze is up, it is clearly too tempting, especially for kids. I also now realize that these colors are psychologically chosen to attract children. The look on their faces are amazing and you can just see “mine” in their eyes. Some toddlers barely able to walk start screaming and running and shake the noodles and mats like crazy. It’s hard to get upset at a child having so much fun even though you know it is going to be more work replacing it. Hopefully when they get older they will remember their moment in this installation, and the experience will help broaden their relationship with art.
The next step was my performance. I wanted to be a character like Marie Antoinette—but made out of touristic inflatable toys. I began purchasing parrots, monkeys, and flamingos as I find these are always sold to push the exotic jungle even though there usually aren’t any to be found except in the local zoo. My dress was to be a giant pool overflowing with these objects. I then began thinking of other inflatable items including blow up dolls. I have used them as a symbol of exoticism and the practice of using sex in the tourism industry originally thinking of the palm tree as the tree of knowledge and the blow up doll as Eve, thus the snake on the doll.
I wanted to be a type of giant blow up doll emerging from the Spalding House pool covered in the debris of symbolism. Therefore, I started taking items I hadn’t used or popped and filling them totally or partially with water and sinking them in the pool. This created a labyrinth of strange objects. I would like to keep this part growing and eventually create an underwater sculpture using the rafts that have holes in them.
Aaron Padilla and Bradley Capello, who work at Spalding House and with the Orvis artists, sank a table that I could use as a sort of ramp, emerging from the pool like Venus, singing the Grace Jones version of “La Vie en Rose,” with jungle sounds mixed in. Since I don’t know how to speak French, I decided that I would just continue my absurdity by saying French phrases and names that have invaded our culture set to the music.
The next challenge was getting in and out of the pool. I enlisted the help of my friends and fellow artists Sheri Lyles and Eva Enriquez (check out Eva’s birdhouses on the trees in the garden—she was the previous artist in residence). For this part I created inflatable beach costumes for all of us. I decided I needed another song and so I chose a French hip hop version of “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” that we absurdly dance to.
I also wanted Pup, the pet of my friends and fellow artists Mary Babcock and Kate Werner, to be dressed as a parrot—visitors can request to be photographed with her as a souvenir. I find it so ironic how many people do this in Waikīkī when macaws are not indigenous to Hawai‘i. These photos will be posted later on the blog. (Be sure you also check out Mary Babcock’s incredible installation inside the museum!)
Besides being photographed with Pup the amazing parrot, people can play kick croquet—they put on water-filled inflatable shoes and kick water-filled beachballs. There are also monkey/pelican/turtle horseshoes as well as a swimming pool ring toss. These I will also be working on the next two weeks to bring out the “dark” side of inflatable objects and how the colors and playfulness of these objects bring about “unnecessary seduction.”