TEMECULA – The Temecula Valley Museum reopened to the public Tuesday, June 23, after a two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic with a colorful exhibit just in time for summer, “Art of the Aloha Shirt: Keoni of Hawaii, 1938-1951.”
Explore the history, artistry and production of Hawaii’s enduring fashion statement, the Aloha shirt. This exhibition of 60 objects, including original textile artwork, production sketches and swatches, advertisements and vintage shirts tells the story of an early innovator, John “Keoni” Meigs, in an industry that has left an indelible mark on fashion in the United States and the world. The “Art of the Aloha Shirt: Keoni of Hawaii, 1938-1951” exhibit runs from now through Sunday, Aug. 9, at the Temecula Valley Museum, 28314 Mercedes Street, in Temecula.
Although many claim authorship, the exact origin of the Aloha shirt remains uncertain. The patterns of Polynesian tapa cloth, the colorful and bold floral designs of Tahitian pareau and the sheer Japanese fabric used for making kimonos are often cited as some of the early stylistic influences of the shirt. Sometime in the late 1920s to the early 1930s, when Hawaii’s economy began to shift from an agricultural to a service-oriented economy and tourists started flying to Hawaii in ever-increasing numbers, the emphasis of the island clothing industry shifted from the production of work clothes to sports and casualwear. Combining the young islanders’ love for colorful clothing with the tourists’ desire to bring home keepsakes of their holidays on the islands, the Aloha shirt enjoyed massive popularity, particularly after the conclusion of World War II.
In the history of the Aloha shirt, there has been no more innovative merchandiser nor better self- promoter than Keoni of Hawaii. John “Keoni” Meigs – “Keoni” means John in the Hawaiian language – was a self-taught painter whose talent became known to the early shirt manufacturers in Honolulu. In 1938, he created his first designs, concentrating on Polynesian tapa patterns inspired by the originals he had studied at the local Bishop Museum.
One of the most innovative Island fabric artists, Meigs is credited with creating as many as three hundred Aloha shirt designs. In Meigs’ words, “In a sense, Aloha shirts put Hawaii on the map. The first thing people did when they arrived was make a beeline for a department store to buy one. A lot of kooky things were designed, but I always tried to be a purist when it came to using motifs from Hawaiian sources.”
“Art of the Aloha Shirt” is curated by Dale Hope, a Hawaiian native and second-generation veteran of the garment industry who wrote a book on the subject in 2000, “The Aloha Shirt: Spirit of the Islands.” Much of the work draws from the collection of Dan Eskenazi, which offers viewers the opportunity to see Aloha shirts from a designer’s perspective, as well as excellent vintage examples of the finished product.
“Art of the Aloha Shirt” is organized and toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. These exhibitions create access to an array of arts and humanities experiences, nurture the understanding of diverse cultures and art forms and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities. For more about ExhibitsUSA, email MoreArt@maaa.org or visit http://eusa.org.
Mid-America Arts Alliance strengthens and supports artists, cultural organizations and communities throughout the region and beyond. M-AAA is especially committed to enriching the cultural life of historically underserved communities by providing high quality, meaningful and accessible arts and culture programs and services. They believe in more art for more people. Additional information about M-AAA is available at http://maaa.org.
Temecula Valley Museum operates under the direction provided by the California Department of Public Health and state of California Department of Industrial Relations as defined in the COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Museums, Galleries, Zoos and Aquarium to provide support a safe, clean environment for staff and visitors, including the required use of face masks by visitors and staff; daily temperature checks; physical distancing; frequent handwashing and daily periodic sanitizing. The Temecula Valley Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information and fun online activities, visit http://TemeculaValleyMuseum.org or call 951-694-6450.
Submitted by Temecula Valley Museum.