The Western world has long had a love affair with the South Pacific. Travelogues of early explorers, philosophers and anthropologists sparked the European imagination with tales of Paradise filled with “uncivilized” noble savages and dusky maidens.
In Post World War II America, the romantic notion of the naive yet erotic Polynesian Princess was commercialized as an icon of leisure and freedom. “Polynesian pop” reduced the rich culture of Island life to a land of tiki bars, garish shirts and grass skirts.
The objectification of the South Pacific woman that continues to dominate the Western psyche is far removed from the reality of Polynesia. Nuclear testing, rising water levels, poverty, and limited opportunities for education or employment are white-washed by the desire for escapism and the dream of Paradise.
Rather than being represented by a caricature whose only known expression is to smile invitingly at the viewer, Lyttle offers an alternate reality, one where the object stares back at the viewer, reclaiming her identity and independence. Pacific Idols is a bold collection of medium scale digital images that come together as a conclusive body of research.
Kirsten Lyttle has just returned from exhibiting at Oedipus Rex Gallery in Auckland. This is her second solo exhibition at red gallery.