'Island Objects' showcase Micronesian art in Florida

Orlando, FL— Twenty minutes northeast of Orlando, the Albin Polasek Museum in Winter Park Florida is hosting “Island Objects,” an exhibit of archaeological materials and historical items from the Pacific islands of Micronesia.

It showcases traditional culture and illustrate the ways it has adapted to external societal forces through periods of Spanish, German, Japanese, and American occupation. The exhibit was curated by Barbara Wavell, an anthropologist and author of Arts & Crafts of Micronesia.

A broad range of objects are represented in the exhibit including carved wooden figures and storyboards, intricately patterned fans, human statuary, navigation charts, and woven clothing and adornments.

The exhibit runs through April 15. The 400 objects on display are all part of Wavell’s personal collection, meticulously gathered and documented since 1975.

"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.'”

“A theme of this exhibition is adaptation,” says Wavell. “They persevered with this art — no matter who happened to be in charge.”

“It’s a beautiful and remarkable culture,” says the Polasek Mus