Barbara Wavell had a mystery on her hands. Before long, she had an obsession filling her house.
Now the Orlando resident is giving everyone a chance to see the result of a lifelong passion for Micronesian art. The Polasek Museum in Winter Park is exhibiting “Island Objects,” works from Wavell’s extensive collection, through April 15.
“It’s a beautiful and remarkable culture,” says Polasek curator Rachel Frisby. “This exhibit has been wildly popular.”
The collection began in the 1970s when Wavell was a student at Rollins College, just a block or so down the road from the Polasek. An anthropology student, Wavell browsed flea markets in search of exotic carvings.
During one such excursion, she encountered a squatting figure and a carved board that she couldn’t quite place. An investigation ensued, and she determined they were from Micronesia, scattered islands between Hawaii and the Philippines.
Distinct from neighboring Polynesia and Melanesia, Micronesia includes the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Nauru — as well as the U.S. territories of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and Wake Island.
“I realized there really wasn’t much information on the art of Micronesia,” says Wavell, who received her undergraduate degree from Rollins and a master’s degree in cultural anthropology from the State University of New York at Binghamton. “It was very mysterious.”
She quickly was hooked. And the artwork started to accumulate. She now estimates she has about 1,200 objects, with 400 on view at the Polasek.
“The more things I bought, the more I found out,” she says simply.
After three books and many lectures on the subject, Wavell is now the source of information. She has visited the region only once, for a month in 2004, but would like to go back. “I’m sure there’s more to be learned,” she says.
Ultimately, she hopes the collection can be on public display full time.
“What I would like to do at some point in the future is find a museum home for them where they’ll be appreciated,” she says.
Throughout the decades of collecting, Wavell has developed an interest not only in the art but in the history of the Micronesian peoples — who have been occupied by the Spanish, Germans, Japanese and Americans.
Frisby says the cultural changes created by the occupiers are reflected in the artwork, which includes paintings, sculptures, woven baskets and fans.
“A theme of this exhibition is adaptation,” she says. “They persevered with this art — no matter who happened to be in charge.”
For Wavell, treading outside art’s mainstream pathways has provided a rewarding career.
“It’s very unusual to collect this,” she admits. “But it’s been fun all along.”
- What: ‘Island Objects: Art and Adaptation in Micronesia’
- Where: Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens, 633 Osceola Ave., Winter Park
- When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 1-4 p.m. Sundays, through April 15
- Cost: $10; $8 seniors and college students; $3 grades K-12
- Call: 407-647-6294
- Online: polasek.org
Source: Google News : http://www.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment/arts-and-theater/the-artistic-type/os-et-mjp-polasek-micronesia-art-20180116-story.html