28th Annual Contemporary Finnish American solo exhibition
On view at Finlandia University Gallery in Hancock, MI from November 29, 2018 - February 15, 2019
435 Quincy St. Hancock, MI 49930
All exhibition photographs by Tom Adolphs
Wood, nails, cotton warp thready, wool yarn
I first learned to weave in a community weaving center in Oulu, Finland in 1995/96 when I was an exchange student after high school. Sitting in a room full of looms next to old women speaking the language of my ancestors felt profound to my 19 year old self who grew-up without grandmothers. I studied weaving at UW-Superior in 1996/97 and again the following year at UM-Duluth before transferring from Fine Arts to Liberal Arts to study architecture. Weaving and fiber-arts remained a passion (and a dream) until September 11th, 2001 when the magnitude of that event forced me to “take myself seriously” … and I stopped weaving to focus on being an adult that was useful in the new world post 9/11.
Copper, Brass, copper wire
Hold yourself together is suggestive of the tension that exists in the emotional reckoning and restructuring that is required during a paradigm shift like the one #metoo has inspired. Women know all too well the societal importance of maintaining composure in the face of objectification, discrimination, injustice, harassment, abuse … and even progress. Whether conscious or subconscious it is a mantra that women have lived by. Hold yourself together – even if you are ripped open, even if you are in danger, even if you are not heard … even when you succeed.
The pieces also suggest the need to be open while in this tensile state, stitching together a new section where the solid has been broken. Holding yourself together requires self-care, welcoming in energy while also being able to also release it. It can be viewed as a singular or collective narrative where the trauma of the past can become fertile ground for constructing a better future. Strength in numbers can mean that we hold each other together and move beyond composure to speaking up, speaking out and speaking about the nuances of change required to bring equity and equality to women in our society.
Copper, copper wire
BOSOM - Not just a woman's chest, but part of a woman's dress covering the chest - 'a space between a person's clothing and chest used for carrying things'. Literary uses of bosom reference loving care and protection, as well as the bosom being the seat of emotions. This first Bosom Bowl is both a vessel that holds my emotions as a female artist today and the metal suggests that it protects and strengthens my ability to access and express those emotions through my art. Symbolic of strength, solidarity and the literal and figurative armor that women wear every single day.
Copper, brass, wool yarn, silk thread, cotton warp, cord.
It was through these small metal weaving studies that I granted myself permission to unlock the chambers of my artist-heart to begin to create truly expressive work for the first time in my life. These pieces mark the beginning of seismic shift within that allowed me to expand beyond designing through production method ideation and editing into the world of truly intuitive, emotive art making.
Copper, copper wire
Symbolizing the growth and transformation (metamorphosis) that I have been actively working through in recent years as I expand beyond being a working interior designer and jewelry-maker and grow into my encompassing artistic voice. Different from the natural changes that occur over time, it takes committed effort to stretch and to grow beyond the confines of one’s current existence, capacity, and identity. It takes endurance, self-awareness and grace to stretch that cocoon wall. Daily practice and regular small movements propel me forward in the direction of my intention. I am breaking through.
Painted wood, nails, cotton warp thread, wool yarn
In the early months of 2016, I was gifted the use of a friend’s condo just a few miles from my home while she was traveling for 7 weeks. I structured my responsibilities as a self-employed jewelry designer, wife and mother of two young boys to allow for me to spend the weekends at the condo as a solo creative retreat. Arriving Saturday morning and returning home Sunday evening, I spent every moment weaving - creating a total of 12 woven wall hangings.
For almost three years the pieces were stored away and not shown to anyone. The act of creating them sparked my creative fire and spurred my expansion into metal working. There was immense power in carving out time and granting myself permission to create work simply for the joy in it.
Installation of 60 copper sculptures
60 sheets of copper
In a man’s world, a woman’s attempt at success is forced … measured by a man’s standard, a system of laws, a definition of beauty, a permission granted or denied. We force ourselves to fit into a mold that was not made for us, was not crafted for our health or wellness or success. We are forced physically, psychologically, emotionally to adapt to an environment that objectifies and does us harm … even if only by not understanding our true nature. Our successes exist within the confines of others' imaginations and trauma is carried within us. We have seen what happens when we speak our truths – first to each other and then collectively. Sixty women held a man accountable for his abuse and despite his fame and reputation as an all-American father, he is in jail because of their courage to speak. We are a FORCE when we unite together.
This piece was born from exploring with material and misusing tools - intentionally doing things incorrectly as a method for seeing new potential in the truths we take for granted. The accepted method creates accepted results. A different method creates different results. We are in a moment in history where different does not automatically equal wrong. Among it’s many layers of meaning, FORCED/FORCE celebrates the idea of exploring new ways of seeing, discovering new methods of doing, and practicing less prescribed ways of being.
Created by mis-using metalworking tools, each 6”x6” sheet of copper is forced into a mold that is circular and too small for it. The metal reacts in predictable and unpredictable ways depending on the intensity and duration of the force acted upon it.
Each piece is entirely unique, but consistent patterns emerge (in particular this pleating) as a result of the repeated method of action.
Copper, copper wire
Full Circle: “through a series of developments that lead back to the original source, position, or situation or to a complete reversal of the original position —usually used in the phrase come full circle “ - Miriam/Webster dictionary
How is it that one could return to the original source and be in both the same position and complete reversal of the position at the same time? What is truth and how does our perspective have the ability to change the truth for ourselves? Returning to the same fire that burned within me twenty years ago, I was able to find a way to act upon my desires to be an artist in a way that was impossible earlier in my life. The situation of fear and self-doubt was the same but at 40 I could dive into the position that deceived me as a younger version of myself. To come full circle is not an end, but a beginning. Time becomes fluid and connections are the same but entirely different. There is a point of connection but the two planes disperse differently in the same direction and possibility is open, endless.
Copper, copper wire, padlock
“If someone is assaulted, or experiences trauma, there is science and scientific proof (it’s biology) that people change. The brain changes and literally what it does is it take the trauma and it puts it in a box and it files it away, and shuts it so that we can survive … the pain. And it also does a lot of other things. It can cause body pain. it can cause (you know) baseline elevations in anxiety. It can cause complete avoidance of not wanting to even remember or think about what happened to you.” - Lady Gaga
Copper, copper wire, cotton warp thread, wool yarn, wooden dowel
Women’s armor is different from men's armor. We do not battle in the same way as men, so why would our armor simply be an adaptation of the kind they wear? Women’s work is our armor. It is historically how we have connected with our community of women - through quilting bees and knitting circles and weaving clothe. Our work and our armor are a part of us. We knit and stitch and weave it into us. It is more a part of our soft bodies than an implement that we wear. It is in our minds, in our hearts, in our wombs, in our work. Women’s Armor is soft.
Copper, electrical wire
Inspired by an in depth conversation with an Anishinaabe friend and mentor about Blood Memory, I created a piece that attempted to express the inexplicably emotional pull that I have to weaving - believing that it is my own way of filling the void that I feel from growing-up without grandmothers. Working with my hands is my greatest skill and it brings me the most joy. I have always been good at crafting objects and I pick-up skills quickly, effortlessly and perhaps it because it is literally in my blood?
“Blood memory is described as our ancestral (genetic) connection to our language, songs, spirituality, and teachings. It is the good feeling that we experience when we are near these things.” - Mary Annette Pember, Daily Yonder blog
It was only later, once the piece was hung for this exhibition that I was introduced to Viking-era Nordic Jewelry through a professor at Finlandia University and the striking resemblance of this form to necklaces that my Finnish ancestors would have likely worn.
acrylic paint on wood panel
Years of denying myself the act of weaving meant that themes from fiber-work shows-up in all mediums. These paintings are suggestive of hand stitches and the meditative quality of stitching for joy, not function.
Masking fluid (removed) and watercolor
Born out of a 100 Days of Resisting project, these watercolors blur the line between painting, weaving fabric, batik-type resist dying and the kind of political resistance that is inspired by the #MeToo movement — strengthening the notion that women’s armor is a part of our daily existence and is woven into everything that we do.
This new sculpture work was made with the support of 2018 Next Step Fund Grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council - made possible with support of the McKnight Foundation.
Photograph of Tia Keobounpheng by Rita Farmer
The exhibition opened on November 29, 2018. Tia gave a short gallery talk at the opening reception that evening.