Monday, June 07, 2010

Finlandia Gallery to host exhibit by Finnish artist June 10-Aug. 7

Photo by Aino Martikainen, whose work will be on exhibit June 10-Aug. 7 in the Finlandia University Gallery. (Photo courtesy Finlandia University)

HANCOCK -- "On the Wide Waters" (Väljillä Vesillä), an exhibition of photographs by Finnish artist Aino Martikainen, is featured at the Finlandia University Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock, June 10 to August 7, 2010.

An opening reception for the exhibit will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m at the gallery Thursday, June 10. Local artist Joyce Koskenmaki will share comments about Martikainen’s work. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

With the seventh poem of the Kalevala as inspiration, Aino Martikainen has been photographing Lake Oulujärvi in the Oulu Province of central Finland since 2004. In her exhibition of photographs, Martikainen captures the poetic vistas and wide horizons of Lake Oulujärvi, and the minute details of beach foundlings left by its declining waters.

Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala was compiled and edited by Elias Lönnrot, a Finnish physician, philologist, and professor (1802-1884). First published in 1835, the Kalevala’s compilation of folk poetry was instrumental in establishing Finnish as a literary language and cultural medium.

The following lines of poetry, which begin the seventh chapter of the Kalevala, are the conceptual framework of Martikainen’s exhibition:

"Woe is me, a luckless boy
woe, a boy down on his luck
that I went from my own lands
the lands where I used to live
to be for ever
in the open, night and day
to be lulled by wind
to be driven by billows
on these wide waters
these open expanses!

Excerpt, the Kalevala translations (Keith Bosley)

In her photographs, Martikainen explores the idea that two constantly quarreling tribes in the Kalevala stories lived in the Kainuu and Lake Oulujärvi area.

"Kainuu and Lake Oulujärvi aren’t usually mentioned today when it comes to the birth place of the Kalevala," notes Martikainen. "There are historical reasons for this, but it is known that Elias Lönnrot was living and working as a doctor in Paltaniemi, by the lake. From there he visited the border area of Karjala, where he collected most of the sung poems."

Lake Oulujärvi is very shallow in its natural state, but fluctuations caused by a nearby hydroelectric plant have allowed Martikainen to photograph what is left behind when the waters recede to very low levels.

"Her interest in the environment and its spiritual connection to the Kalevala are evident in her carefully composed photographs of wide vistas and horizons, animal prints, skulls, shells, and the rich red iron ore at the bottom of the lake," notes Carrie Flaspohler, director of the Finlandia University Gallery.

"In the Kalevala, there are the first observations about the delicate balance between nature and man," says Martikainen. "In the seventh poem, the eagle saves Väinämöinen from the water, because he had earlier saved one tree for the resting place for the bird."

Martikainen completed a M.A. at the University of Jyväskylä in 1990, and an F.L. from the University of Helsinki in 2003. Her work has been exhibited in Finland at the Galleria Sisu in Kajaani, the Kalevala Center Juminkeko in Kuhmo, and the Galleria Leo and the Museum of Natural History in Helsinki.

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment. Please call 906-487-7500 for more information.

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