Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Finlandia University Gallery to host exhibit by Maija Miettinen; opening reception is June 2

Art by Maija Miettinen. (Photo courtesy Finlandia University)

HANCOCK -- "Maija Miettinen: Rhythm of the Whole" will be on display at the Finlandia University Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock, from June 2 to August 3, 2016. An opening reception at the gallery will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 2, with an artist talk beginning at 7:15 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Maija Miettinen’s large-scale abstract paintings, composed of repeating bands of brightly colored optical patterns, present a continuous negotiation and investigation of the binaries of subject versus object, open versus closed and nature versus culture.

Rejecting illusionistic space, Miettinen’s paintings convey the here and now, infinitely renewing that moment of first encounter. While her pattern making references Finnish cultural paradigms, including folk patterns and craft, Miettinen’s paintings find their humanity in the poetry of her mark making.

"Where the configurations start falling apart and the imperfections of the hand become visible, I see vulnerability but also delicate tension and confusion," says Miettinen.

Born and raised in Helsinki, Finland, Miettinen has lived in the United Sates for the past twelve years. Her artwork explores the theories of cultural marginalization, liminality, and power in the global world and examines how her work emerges from her immigrant reality -- yet is not a direct reflection of her biography per se.

"In my personal life I see myself living in a perhaps unusual place where my intimate, internal cultural encounter of the everyday American life and who I experience myself to be is continuously conflicted with, and in opposition to the external assumption to who I am perceived to be," notes Miettinen in her artist statement. "I find myself often asking from this position, how can I convey what I experience, what kind of forms can I find to communicate these incompatible experiences, but perhaps above all, how can I find justification for painting in this world of seemingly increasing and confusing polarization and conflict?"

Miettinen currently lives and works in Columbus, Ohio, where she carries on her studio practice and teaches art at the Department of Art at The Ohio State University. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree, with a graduate minor in Comparative Cultural Studies, from The Ohio State University in 2015.

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. For more information, call 906-487-7500.

(Inset photo: Maija Miettinen. Photo courtesy Finlandia University)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Letter: EPA officials unresponsive to public concerns at meeting on l'Anse Warden Plant

Although we appreciate the EPA's willingness to respond to our plea for action with its investigation of the Warden Plant, the staff's demeanor at the May 9, 2016, public meeting was generally unprofessional and they were often unresponsive to the comments and questions of local residents.

(Inset photo: Catherine Andrews, author of this letter, speaks to EPA officials about public health concerns during the May 9, 2016, informational meeting on the L'Anse Warden Plant. Photo by Keweenaw Now)

The stack test failure in September 2015 was downplayed by the regulators even though it revealed more than twice the permit level for Hydrogen Chloride. Excessive levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs, found in fugitive dust samples were shrugged off. We were told that PAHs can come from woodstoves, outdoor grills and cigarettes. EPA did not explain how PAHs from these sources might become attached to unburned wood fibers from ground-up, chemically-treated railroad ties (fugitive dust) that drift from the Warden property into the community and the surrounding environment.

Four fugitive dust samples and one blank sample were collected in the L'Anse area on February 1, 2016. Two South 4th Street collection sites are located about 300 feet from the Warden facility. All 20 of the PAHs tested at The EPA Regional Laboratory in Chicago were above standard limits in the samples from these two sites. Specific locations of the other two collection sites have not been disclosed.

A large crowd of local residents attended the May 9, 2016, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informational meeting at L'Anse High School. Here EPA and DEQ officials listen to comments from the audience. Many residents, including senior citizens living near the L'Anse Warden Plant, complained of respiratory effects from the Plant's fugitive dust. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

According to the Encyclopedia of Health and Occupational Health and Safety the PAH, benzo(a)pyrene is a very potent carcinogen. It was found to be 1245 percent and 2140 percent above the reporting limit at the two South 4th Street collection sites.

Pentachlorophenol (PCP) is a known carcinogen that is banned in Canada and also banned in the U.S. with few exceptions. The two South 4th Street samples revealed 454 percent and 990 percent above the reporting limit for PCP. Creosote is also a known carcinogen but DEQ's Steve Casey states that it poses "no public health threat to the community."

The L'Anse Warden Electric Company (LWEC) was erroneously classified as a "biomass facility" when it was converted from a stand-by natural gas facility in 2008. LWEC is an incinerator that has been operating without a permit since December 30, 2015. It has two outstanding violations from December 1, 2015, for a failed stack test and February 8, 2016, for excessive dust, smoke and odor. Attorneys for Traxys, the owner of the facility, have been negotiating the violations and a new operating permit with DEQ attorneys since the beginning of February 2016.

The agencies assigned with the responsibility of protecting public health and the environment are instead protecting the interests of corporate capitalism. Their new purpose seems to be The Solution to Pollution is Corporate Absolution.

Catherine Andrews
Board Member, Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Guest Article: Memorial Day 2016

By Horst Schmidt, President, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition

It's not often that we environmentalists remember this day. Memorial Day commemorates those men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. 

Although they may have served for different reasons, they lost their lives protecting all the people in this country.

That is the point. All the people. As we enjoy this day, we need to remind those who think they are privileged and have rights due to their wealth over and above that of the remainder of people in this country that their good fortune is due to the sacrifices made in Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, Europe and East Asia and many other lands.

When determined efforts are made to undermine the Constitution, prostitute the law, corrupt our government, take what is not rightfully theirs, destroy our water, air and land, what reason do we have to support such a system?

It is time for equality to reign. Let us provide a stake for all who are willing to make our democracy work and to keep our country safe from those bent on destroying the environment on which our very existence depends.

Let us have a Memorial Day that recognizes those soldiers, sailors, air force, marines did not die for the few, but for all of us.

(Inset photo of American flag by Keweenaw Now.)