Papua New Guinea Exhibit Comes to PMC

More than 50 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, textiles, and women's woven bags (bilums) will be on display at the Hess Gallery this April, as part of an exciting new exhibit: Nation-Making and Cultural Tensions: Contemporary Art from Papua New Guinea (PNG). Curated by visiting lecturer Pamela Sheffield Rosi, Ph.D., the show, focuses on how the imagery of PNG's new urban artists is helping to frame a new national identity.

The international art community today regards the traditional arts of PNG people to be among the finest of the tribal world. But new contemporary PNG art forms, which developed in conjunction with political independence, have received little attention from collectors and museums, because they are considered too "westernized." Responding to this criticism, the Hess Gallery exhibition illustrates that contemporary PNG art forms embody the cultural diversity and modernizing character of PNG's rapidly developing society. From this perspective, contemporary PNG artists are image-makers who are working to frame a national identity by integrating old and new lifestyles and values.

This mulitmedia exhibit will feature artist-in-residence Larry Santana, one of PNG's most talented young designers. Throughout the exhibition, Santana will lead workshops for PMC students and local schools and museums. According to President Nemerowicz, the exhibition "provides an opportunity for Pine Manor College to share educational resources through partnerships with schools in the surrounding community."

Larry Santana's art fuses his graphic design training with the inspiration he draws from traditional art and myths. Employing powerful symbols, he chooses subjects that reflect his admiration for the values of traditional Melanesian life as well as the modern difficulties of "culture clash"--living between the world of traditional beliefs and the imported world of western culture and society. Santana's work is also deeply personal, embodying the difficulties he has endured to support his family and survive professionally. These memories are recorded in such poignant paintings as his 1988 self-portrait, "Struggle and Pain at the Six Mile Dump" and "Risen From the Ashes." In depicting the predicaments of hunger, dislocation, and social alienation--conditions shared by many others in Port Moresby and throughout the world--Larry Santan's work speaks to us all in its warnings to steward the earth's resources and to show compassion to the needy.

Santana's most recent national commissions include embellishments for the newly enlarged Port Moresby Airport, and murals for the 1996 ANZAC Memorial commemorating the Allied victory in the World War II Battle of the Coral Sea. Santana, 36, lives in Port Moresby with his family.

The exhibition opens with a public lecture by Dr. Rosi as part of the Anne P. Nicholson '41 Distinguished Lecture Series, which will be followed by a reception with the PNG Ambassador to the United States in attendance. Dr. Rosi, a cultural anthropologist, has done research at the PNG National Arts School, and has published several articles on contemporary PNG art and the problems of being a contemporary PNG artist. She has previously curated similar exhibitions at Monmouth College, Bridgewater State College, and Bryn Mawr College, where she received her Ph.D. in 1994. Dr. Rosi is currently writing a book that examines the role of the PNG National Arts School in the creation of a national identity.