"Memorings" by Maika'i Tubbs; plastic bags, Plexiglas

When Maika’i Tubbs isn’t organizing Bank of Hawai’i Family Sunday, he is creating some of the most exciting art in the islands. He was in the Bishop Museum exhibition “‘Ili Iho: The Surface Within” last fall, and has three works in the current “Hi’iakaikapoliopele: Visual Stories by Contemporary Native Hawaiian Artists” at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

Invited artists were asked to create works interpreting “Epic Tale of Hiiakaikapoliopele” (Awaiulu Press), the story of Pele’s wayward sister. Above is Maika’i’s “Memorings,” made of plastic bags on  Plexiglas stands, at the opening of the exhibition on Sept. 12. He built on what he started for “‘Ili Iho,” this time crocheting plastic bags instead of cassette tape into this trail of cloudlike forms—I remember when Maika’i sent out an email to staff asking for white and blue plastic bags. It is a great feeling to be a part of the art, even if it is just bringing plastic bags to work. Maika’i is a community-oriented, environmentally aware artist, working with people, using everyday materials.

“The ‘Memorings’ piece was inspired by the section where Pele recited all of the winds, winds that not even the eldest natives of the land could recall,” explains Maika’i. “After the last name was mentioned, the calm turned to storm and the villagers were left in disbelief. Over the course of 13 or so pages, Pele named every single wind and took just one small intermission throughout the recital. It helped emphasize just how much power names can hold. Names passed down from generation to generation. Names given for strength and vitality. Names lost, then found again. Today we remember different names. The new gods to worship take the form of retail stores, as brand names are passed down to our children and inherently shape their belief systems. The clouds sit on supersized earring stands and seem to rise and fall from the ground just as quickly as their storefront progenitors. Memorings reminds us of these modern-day idols and their ability to entice the viewer into a world of retail therapy, brand superiority and product dependency.”

Maika’i received a State Foundation on Culture and the Arts recognition award for his work “At Your Disposal,” made of plastic forks, spoons and knives. He turned something so mundane into a trail of crystal butterflies.

He says that HiSAM will show a pared down version of this “Hi’iaka” exhibition this spring. Can’t wait.

Sept 14-Oct 24, 2009 • Schaefer International Gallery • Maui Arts & Cultural Center