The Artstor Blog is the place to find new interdisciplinary teaching ideas with our new series: Teaching with Artstor. This week we feature Re-historicizing Contemporary Pacific Island Art” by Marion Cadora, a graduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

My research in the Department of Art and Art History at University of Hawai`i looks at contemporary Pacific Island artists who are using art as a tool to rewrite history through indigenous perspectives.

I am interested in compositions of the “body,” both male and female, and from multiple time periods and perspectives. However, understanding ways in which “bodies” are imagined is incredibly complex. One scholar suggests that masculinities “have been formed in relation to, as much as resistance against, foreign hegemonic models and through such histories, hybrid hegemonies have emerged” (Jolly, 2008). That in mind, it is true that Oceanic bodies are best studied relationally and historically, between pasts, presents, and futures.  How then can we engage with and visualize Oceanic bodies within the wider frame of historiography? Interestingly, Artstor has been a powerful tool to assist with such inquiries.

possibly Korewori, Female Figure, early to mid-20th century. Image and original data provided by Saint Louis Art Museum

My three image groups are designed to answer this question from varying states of time, place, and perspectives, imagining “Oceanic bodies.” Beginning with themes of the past, ancestry, and genealogy seen from an indigenous perception, the systemic patterns and artistic shapes are the make-up of “Oceanic bodies” beginning from pre-contact.  The second image group looks at conceptions of the body through the period of Western contact. Images capture “Oceanic bodies” that were once commodified for the purpose of science, tourism, and colonial agendas. The last image group looks at the contemporary present; “Oceanic bodies” are tattooed, continuing traditions to communicate and propagate cultural identity and longevity.  We can look at each image group as contextualized compositions, revitalized and reconfigured with time.

Artstor, unlike any other image database, serves as a conceptual portal. It offers digital malleability for deep exploration of art, culture, and society as it traverses in time and space. Artstor is an incredibly versatile tool that, I see, has three main functionalities. Firstly, the high quality images allow viewers to embrace the visual vibrancy of colors and forms of images.  Studying far away from the nation’s major archival resources, high image quality is invaluable. Secondly, Artstor allows individuals to conceive and generate a newly conceived niche in world through the creation of image galleries, prompted by scholarly inquiry. Thirdly, because of the malleable nature of Artstor, different ideas and imaginations of art, culture, and society traverse a digital sphere into cutting-edge scholarship for the future. For me, Artstor is an archetypal tool to continue re-historicizing and re-imagining Pacific art and culture.

Work cited:
Jolly, Margaret. “Moving Masculinities: Memories and Bodies Across Oceania.” The Contemporary Pacific 20.1 (2007): 1-24.