Chris Emory is a filmmaker, tapa-maker, performance artist, cultural practitioner, slam poet and for about the last two months, also a security officer here at HoMA.
If you’re wondering, patrolling the museum is nary a boring job to Emory. While she enjoys the “self-time” it has to offer, being a security officer here has also proved to be entertaining.
“There’s always something funky going on in the corner,” she says. “Down by the post office [in the basement], installations is walking by with some huge Polynesian artifact going to [our photographer] Shuzo’s studio to take pictures of it… Working here just kind of feels like a theme park that I get to come to every day.”
Speaking of patrolling, this is how Emory came across her favorite piece in the museum. Upstairs in the John Dominis and Patches Holt Damon Gallery: The Arts of Hawai‘i, a big painting by Madge Tennent that consists of even bigger colors caught her eye. “You wouldn’t normally see the images here going together: gas masks and big Polynesian women covered in flowers—I live for juxtaposition like this.”
The way Tennent depicts the Polynesian woman is another thing Emory loves about the painting. “Madge acknowledged full-bodied Polynesian woman, acknowledged thickness and curves and maternity in a way that I’ve never known non-islander artists to. Usually, they depict us in these very exoticized ways.”
As for where the woman and the bunny gas mask-donned keiki at her side are looking at, Emory feels it’s open to interpretation. “You can connect that in whatever commentary on Pacific Islander struggle, whether they’re looking at the onslaught of colonization or they’re looking at war planes coming in through the harbor. I especially love that normally works this heavy are given kind of like dead or muted color tones. Madge explores the hell out of these very heavy subjects with vibrant colors that are just full of life and it’s beautiful for me.”