Somewhere in the city, someone is lounging in paradise. The Kamikaze-smelling room spray helps. The palm trees rustle. Papaya tempts the taste...
Somewhere in the city, someone is lounging in paradise. The Kamikaze-smelling room spray helps. The palm trees rustle. Papaya tempts the taste buds. And oh, what’s this coming from the stereo? Monkey noises?
It isn’t the rum steering you into fantasy land although some fruity rum drink (tiny umbrella optional) is generally de rigeur. Donning a Hawaiian print is good. So is a lei. And maybe rattan or better — sand! — for underfoot.
But above all — and this will distinguish whether the surroundings veer toward “sophisti-tiki” or outright tack, er, campy — are the tikis. Are they carved wood marvels that stand at attention? Or do they dispense pepper and salt?
As it did a half-century ago, tiki once more is riding a wave of popularity, cultivating a new generation of fana-tikis, if you will.
Basements have been reincarnated into Rongo Rongo rooms; backyards into Bali Hai; and such is the demand for that vintage Polynesian look that you’re more likely to get struck in the head with a coconut than score a find at some local thrift shop.
There’s currently a “Tiki Art Now!” show in Seattle generating some buzz, as well as plenty of socializing going on, in person and online.
“Who is carving a Tiki pumpkin this Halloween?” posted Tiki Ham on the “Tiki Central” forum (www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral). And what about a Tiki thanksgiving? someone named Blowfish has posed.
It’s Tiki time!
“Tiki Art Now! 3” Featuring new works by more than a dozen international artists, including Shag and Tim Biskup. Now through Oct. 9 at Roq La Rue, 2312 Second Ave. in Seattle. www.roqlarue.com or 206-374-8977
Tiki pays homage to a quintessentially American phenomenon from the 1950s, inspired by all things Polynesian. Tiki is, really, more verb than noun; a lifestyle, not just a collection of mugs.
To partake in tiki is to indulge in a world that is, at turns, cheeky and chic and one that shouldn’t offend your sensibilities unless you appreciate the music of Jimmy Buffet, which is a decided no-no in tiki land.
And true, tiki is self-indulgent. But so is yoga, which is a lot harder to enjoy.
For a certain generation, say those who’d never confuse Trader Vic’s as some sort of offspring of Trader Joe’s, the enthusiasm is purely driven by nostalgia.
“I grew up in Northeast Massachusetts and there were a lot of Polynesian restaurants,” Lisa Petrucci explains. “My father used to take me to one that served pupu platters, and you had to cross this bridge with a fake pond and you sat in big basket chairs. It was kind of a magical place.”
So Petrucci, an artist and thus used to creating things, transformed part of her living room into tiki bliss. Bamboo window coverings. A bamboo loveseat. A garland of tiny bamboo lights. A tiki lamp. An army of tikis poised atop the mantel. Various figurines of women doing the hula. And framed pictures of sand and surf, including one painted on black velvet.
It’s not quite the Kowloon restaurant of her childhood. Nor is it the Hawaiian vacation she now takes annually with her husband and two kids. But it’s something special and when she’s entertaining, mixing up cocktails, playing Martin Denny tunes, scenting the room with pineapple , it’s all nice and fun.
For some, the pursuit of tiki is largely cultural and an ocean apart from kitsch. Artist Dawn Frasier used to live in Fiji. Now she lives in West Seattle in a house that’s all aqua and sea green with dark brown 1950s-era furniture. Yes, there’s a tiki bar on her backyard deck and a wildly-painted VW bus out front. But her home’s décor consists of multiple tapa prints (stenciled paintings made on a type of bark cloth) with nary a tiki mug nor a puffer fish, in sight.
Frasier, hair bleached from the sun and part of it worn in dreadlocks, talks about creating a hideaway, “a comfort zone,” while maintaining a certain aesthetic cultivated from an appreciation of tiki that’s been 18 years in the making. She’s after something calm but otherworldly. “Exotic,” she says, using a word that comes up quite often.
“This is purely about escapism,” says Frasier who got married in a tiki hut.
Then there’s Kenny Montana, a King County Metro mechanic, who’d likely never admit that he’s hip but that’s, simply, what he is. He’s always been keen on the anti-norm. So in his youth he was a skate punk. Then, a goth. Now, at 36, his interests are decidedly eclectic but they include tiki. Hawaiian shirts dominate his wardrobe.
Montana is married to Kirsten Anderson who owns the Roq La Rue art gallery in Belltown, which champions low-brow, pop-surrealism art. So it’s hardly a surprise that Montana’s tiki ardor is design driven. The couple’s condo features a leopard print couch and walls painted lava red. Tiki is a force but it doesn’t govern the décor, except for out on the deck where a 6-foot tall tiki (eBay) stands guard.
“Everything today is mass produced and cookie cutter,” Montana says. So tiki, he theorizes, is big because it’s about having a certain style and expressing a certain individuality.
“We are tiki people. I just love it. I think it’s cool. I don’t know why I love it but I do.”
Florangela Davila: 206-464-2916 or firstname.lastname@example.org