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Tiki Central Forums Ľ Ľ General Tiki Ľ Ľ What defines "TIKI" art...and does anybody care?
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What defines "TIKI" art...and does anybody care?
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11605
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2012-03-09 07:54 am   Permalink

On 2012-03-09 02:50, swizzle wrote:

Just because one, or some people, say it must be a certain way, doesn't make it so. This is not law.

I feel you are addressing me here, so: To me, for new Tiki art to contain visible elements of Oceanic art and mid-century Tiki is not some kind of "law", it is just common sense, as in my old saying "If it says Tiki on it, it should have Tiki in it" - if it doesn't, it ain't. What is there to argue about?


On 2012-03-09 02:50, swizzle wrote:
This is an individuals take on something that is completely made-up with to begin with.

I have to disagree here. Yes there are some examples of that in the mid-century, but they are funny exceptions. Not enough to make "completely made-up" the motto of the art form, though. WHY is original mid-century American Tiki art cool, what makes it unique? The fact that the artist A.) did not simply copy ancient Polynesian carvings, and then B.) gave them their own touch, adding modernist or cartoony elements of the time. However, they were still recognizable as POLYNESIAN (or Oceanic) idols. They could not be mistaken for Hobbit monsters, wood sprites, or "whatever" ethnicity folk art.


Some/most/all might say that about my work. I really don't care. I KNOW that there are people out there that do like my work.... As it is enough for me to see artists on this site who 'I' think have created work that really is 'art', and how small the percentage of relation to the Polynesian/Oceanic arts and to midcentury American Tiki it really is, is irrelevant to me.
I like, what i like. And whether or not my 'opinion' fits in with someone elses idea means nothing to me.

You seem to argue from a defensive position here, which as far as I am concerned, is unnecessary, because when I look at your mug variations, they seem to lie somewhere in the tradition of what Tiki mug makers did in the mid-century.

And your last part of your argument is totally correct for ANY artist. Of course anybody is absolutely free to create whatever, have it liked by people, and declare it as art. Who could ever deny them that? But IF that art piece would not have anything (or just 1%) of Tiki in it, why insist to label it such? I am not putting down some law here, what I am saying seems like an objective fact to me, a logic that exists, beyond right or wrong.

Where the matter of subjective OPINION comes in is more also where the matter of PERSONAL TASTE comes in: There are some Tiki works out there that I am "not partial" to because they're not my personal taste. But if they clearly contain elements of the Tiki genre, I would not claim they are not "Tiki". Maybe I would say they are not "enough" Tiki, or tacky, or, my most common complaint, too cartoony.

But all this only touches onto a recent realization I had, brought on by Kokolele, that I still have not had time to fully formulate yet.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 01, 2004
Posts: 2539
From: wisconsin northwoods
Posted: 2012-03-09 09:12 am   Permalink

These are always interesting debates, and I admire BigBro for sticking to his guns, if you will, against an ever-increasing onslaught on too colorful, too toothy, too
margaritaville stuff.

I should stay where I belong in the carving thread (if I even belong there) but
I guess the question of defining the genre has to take into account that an
awful lot of people feel that a multi-colored plastic mask on a cheap bar
next to the pool constitutes a "tiki" environment, and in our watered down
world they are sorta right. We see it all the time in the marketplace, carving and home bar threads, and we cringe, waiting for the public flogging that
will might follow. It's a good thing, the perpetrator either gets
pissed off and leaves, or they learn there is a lot more to "tiki" than they
thought. It's a good outcome either way, and the conversation often
leads to conversion.

Keep harping away BigBro, there's always hope.

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Tiki Centralite

Joined: Feb 08, 2012
Posts: 93
Posted: 2012-03-09 1:02 pm   Permalink

Hi, Swizzle:
Thanks for the input. Iíll try to elaborate then Iíll step back again and let others rejoin the discussion.

One of the reasons I wonít attach the KokoKele Certified Crap (KKCC) label to pieces being produced by Forum members goes back to my discussion about artists in various stages of development. I believe a great many people come to Tiki Central with naÔve enthusiasm and a desire to produce something ďTiki.Ē How can I fault that? The more pieces they produce the more mature they are going to become as Tiki artists and the more noteworthy their pieces are going to become. Iím thoroughly impressed that people are getting their hands dirty to bring new Tiki into the world. This shows me that Tiki is alive and well. And Iím with you: I think a lot of it is worth ignoring, but I think the artists who show any promise of development are worth encouraging. If a mature, studied and skillful artist turns out a piece that has no elements of Tiki whatsoever and tries to pass it off as Tiki, I may admire their skill and I might even like the piece but Iím going to make a mental note that it belongs in a different forum. It simply isnít Tiki. For me to label something as complete crap it would have to be really, deliberately crappy. There is a broad range of Tiki stuff that I would be inclined to label as Tiki Sell-out, but thatís not a bad thing. A lot of it is fun stuff and most of us probably have some of it in our collections.

One of the reasons I listed those categories wasnít to make people think I stand in judgment of their work. I seldom do that. I actually wanted to make the point that I think thereís Tiki Art, and I think thereís a bunch of other stuff that doesnít qualify as art, necessarily, but still holds our attention. Thatís where the crafts, objects, sell-out and crap categories came from. This was in keeping with my assumption that we were actually talking about two different things: Art and Tiki. Tiki Art is where these two things cross paths, and I personally would put a limited number of pieces in this category. Most of the Tiki stuff I own would fall more into the Craft and Object categories, even though I think a lot of it is produced by very artistic people. I donít call it art because I have, in my mind, a rather rigid test as to what I categorize as art. It gets kind of complicated and very subjective. Itís sort of like trying to discuss jazz. Iíve heard that people end up shooting each other when they try to do that.

I like your work, too, Swizzle. The chasm between it and Utter Crap (KKCC) is miles and miles wide. Iíve really enjoyed your posts about it and am delighted with your experimentation. I salute you, my friend.

And letís face it: in the long run weíre all just indulging in something that we really enjoy. BigBroTiki brings a level of scholarship and sophistication to Tiki that I personally am deliriously happy about. He helps give Tiki validation that is important to its continuity. He thinks about it, studies it, applies his passion to it and provides us with a sense of history and authority. In my opinion he has all the credentials required to provide considered critical input about all things Tiki. He has a lot to offer and I think weíre wise to pay attention to what he says. Guys like Swizzle represent the ranks of those who are creating new pieces for everyone to enjoy. This is also vital to Tikiís continuity. Youíre putting it out there and keeping the interest alive. Whether I like your work or not, you producers are Tiki heroes, so I thank you!

I donít want to get gushy here, so Iím going to sign off.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 03, 2007
Posts: 1243
From: Melbourne,Australia
Posted: 2012-03-09 3:04 pm   Permalink

I'm not sure where to start with a reply here, and it will probably be all over the place, however i'll try to keep it as short as possible. Although i need to say that this is a discussion i was reluctant to get involved with because it frustrates the crap out of me.

First i want to thank KokoKele and bigbro on their compliments on my work. I must say to bigbro though that i was not taking a defensive position at all. I'm actually quite surprised by your comment, as the reason i raised the issue of my work is because my mug is a very stylized face with a "big-toothy grin". To read what you said i have to say that i am flattered, although quite surprised as i said, because i know i have read you mention it before that just because it has a "big-toothy grin" does not make it tiki. And this is where i although i do agree to a point, in general that is one of the key defining elements, to ME, of what is an integral part of the tiki image.

Looking around my room as i type this, at my collection of mugs, pretty much every one of them is from modern artists and there are a lot of pieces with "big-toothy grins" that i'd be hard pressed to find people disagreeing whether or not they are Tiki. This will be the only time i will mention an artist by name, but let's look at Crazy Al's work as a perfect example. If Sven himself says that C Al's work is not tiki then you will never hear from me in this forum again. Of the handful of pieces i have of his, every one has 'that' style mouth. His work has, without a doubt, the visible elements of Oceanic art and mid-century Tiki, but at the same time, modernized.
And of the few Coco-Jos staues that i have, which again i don't think anyne will dispute ARE tiki, i see the same thing.

Besides the Ku and Lono images my favourite Tiki image is the Moai, which technically isn't even Tiki. (Is that correct Sven?) That is already an extremely stylized image and without doing an exact copy of the ones found on Rapa Nui, any artist creating that image is going to put their own style into it which might not make it look authentic, but again, to ME is still going to be 'Tiki'. I think my mug is an example of that. To me it is my twist on an already stylized image which i'd like to think has the underlying elements of the original.

Without a doubt, there are some people who are far more talented than others. When i said i find some of the work on this site to be 'utter crap' maybe i was being a bit harsh. It just doesn't appeal to me and also shows me that those pieces were created by someone who I think really does not have the same talent as another, however i respect them for being proud of it and putting it out there for everyone to see. Having said that, i personally feel that there are some well respected artists producing work that, although it doesn't appeal to me, are accepted into the Tiki community that have very little visible elements of Oceanic art and mid-century Tiki.

However, i digress. I think the question i'd really like answered by bigbro, as it is he that raised this topic, is what exactly ARE the visible elements of Oceanic art and mid-century Tiki for something to be called 'Tiki'? You have probably said it countless times before but i'd like to hear it again expressed in layman's terms so that i can understand. To ME, the primitiveness (is that a word?) of it is the underlying factor although i know that Sven is going to say that that is wrong.

That is why i find this topic to be extremely frustrating as unless an artist is going to do exact copies of work from the past, there is always going to be their twist/take on an image which will alter it enough for people to say it is not Tiki. As Sven says, "If it says Tiki on it, it should have Tiki in it". I don't disagree. However, if I, and i'm sure there are plenty of others, can see enough of tiki in an image and it is enjoyed and makes you happy, then what's the issue and who really does care?

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Atomic Tiki Punk
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 19, 2009
Posts: 7048
From: Costa Misery
Posted: 2012-03-09 6:16 pm   Permalink

I thought this was settled, I decide on what's Tiki & what is not........Sooooooo........
Let's get cocktails.......

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Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Jun 17, 2002
Posts: 7660
Posted: 2012-03-16 08:51 am   Permalink

I'm still reading your post Atomic Tiki Punk! Wendy

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