Aotearoa artist Brett Graham was in town for the opening week of the Honolulu Biennial, and he stopped at HoMA on March 8 to take a Shangri La tour and see Artists of Hawai‘i 2017. He took time to pose with his sculpture Snitch—which is now part of the museum’s collection and on view in the Art of the Pacific Gallery—and talk about its creation.
He said it was strange seeing it amid masks and carvings from places like Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. Why?
“It was done sort of tongue in cheek, and these other works are ritualized or spiritual. But having said that, I’m glad he’s here, he seems happy,” he explained, in a gentle, hesitant voice. At the invitation of his former professor Deborah Waite (Graham got his MFA from the University of Hawai‘i), he created Snitch for the 2014 UH exhibition Binding and Looping, focused on weaving.
“I wanted to make something about Hawai‘i. Someone had mentioned events that had occurred when they built Aulani, so it came out of that,” says Graham. Normally working in natural materials such as wood and stone, he went out of his comfort zone to use foam, tar and feathers for this appropriation of the Disney character Stitch as a metaphor for the impact of foreigners on indigenous cultures.
“I don’t usually work in this way, so I enjoyed making him,” said Graham. “The first version of him was going to be woven, and I decided to go this way. This is quite a departure.”
See more work by Graham at the Honolulu Biennial’s Hub in the space formerly known as Sports Authority.
Brett Graham (Aotearoa/New Zealand, born 1967)
Carved foam, tar, feathers
Purchase, 2016 (2016-30-01)