You have to cross a body of water to see mario lemafa's malie_inmediasres_turtle at cogean? gallery in Bremerton. I like that. There's an intentionality in deciding to go see the show; instead of light railing down to Pioneer Square or knocking around the Hill on an impulse after work, you must buy a ticket, wait for a ferry to cross the Sound, navigate your way through downtown Bremerton onto Cogean Avenue, and arrive at a pleasant looking house that awaits to welcome you. All to see art.
There's a shedding to this process (like you're stripping off the stresses of city life), but I think it ultimately helps in taking in the contemplative work of the Hawaii-born, Seattle-based indigenous artist (and 2016 Stranger Genius nominee). In the context of the front two rooms of someone's house, there's an immediate intimacy to the show. The carpet is nice and cushy too.
At the home gallery run by Joey Veltkamp and Ben Gannon, lemafa's show considers "pan-indigenousness, the frictions as well as the unions involved in relation, from one 'indigenous' person to another." It touches on various forms of communication and connection—from a painted internet router to a series of baskets that are a result of a weaving talk-story sesh—parsing out what it means to recognize, care, and call on other people.
The title pulls from three languages (Samoan, Latin, English); "malie" means shark in Samoan, a reference to lemafa's heritage. Malie and "turtle" (of Turtle Island, a common indigenous name for North America) together reference legends of the Shark and Turtle from Vaitogi, a village in Samoa, which lemafa also visually represents as "it's not always cute between us" in the show.
One of the most beautiful and affecting pieces in the show is "skin in the game," a site-specific series that's also on display at the 2019 Honolulu Biennial. Composed of glitter glue and stencil, lemafa sketched a hibiscus flower design—like from Hawaiian shirts—onto two walls of the gallery and filled it in with the most translucent green glitter. It's not immediately visible. For the first five minutes, I didn't notice it all. But when you stand in just the right spot, the walls shimmer. It's a beautiful and honestly brilliant way to think about presence and attention, especially of indigenous peoples and cultures.
Tomorrow there will be a closing reception for the show from 6-9 p.m. Take a ferry, shed the city, and see something new.