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Bosko, Tiki Artist

Just outside Escondido, Bosko Hrnjak, 47, lives in a Polynesian-retro environment of his own making. “Everything I do is influenced by that era,” says Bosko. Tiki poles and shields he’s carved in his open-air shop are everywhere, and in a nod to his youth, his totemic wooden Yogi Bear has pride of place near his front door. 

An irrepressible artist and collector, Bosko—as he is known in the overlapping tiki and art worlds—carves and paints 1950s-style sandpipers and desert scenes; slices into redwood and cedar to craft tikis; and casts bronze jewelry inspired by Mid-Century Modern Atomic themes. He designed an engagement ring featuring two retro cat faces for his bride, the Dutch-born artist Truus de Groot. They were married in a Polynesian A-frame hut he built in their tropical back yard, only steps away from the Kapu Tiki Room, which he outfitted with vintage tiki bar and restaurant décor.

Tiki Oasis 11
“South of the Border:
A Retro Tijuana-Style Party”
August 18-21, 2011
Crowne Plaza Hotel l tikioasis.com

“The Pacific Islanders’ wooden tiki ‘gods’ that Christian missionaries burned are still misunderstood by some today,” Bosko said. “The Polynesians imbued them with mana (character traits) … for a ceremony where you were hoping to get your Uncle Herb to come in. They weren’t idolizing them.”

Having studied traditional Polynesian tikis and those made by California artists for the commercial tiki craze a generation ago, Bosko has his own style and international following. His tallest carved tiki pole rises to 15 feet; he also offers a line of desktop tikis. Some of his ceramic mugs, which he makes in small limited editions, go for hundreds of dollars. And he’s sold out three shows of his ‘50s-style framed, carved, and painted reliefs at M-Modern Gallery in Palm Springs.

Bosko will return to the annual, rollicking Tiki Oasis weekend around the pool at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly the Hanalei) in Mission Valley to sell his work and give a talk on “Polynesian Pop in Mid-Century San Diego.” Look for the artist with one name surrounded by live bands and crowds in Hawaiian shirts and sheaths. boskoart.com

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