Thursday, November 29, 2018

"Permission," new exhibit by Finnish American artist Tia Keo, opens Nov. 29 at Finlandia University Gallery

"Permission," an exhibit by Finnish American artist Tia Salmela Keobounpheng, is now on display in the Finlandia University Gallery through Feb. 15, 2019. An opening reception will be held TONIGHT, Nov. 29. (Photos courtesy Finlandia University Gallery)

HANCOCK -- Finlandia University Gallery will present the 28th Annual Contemporary Finnish American Artist Series Exhibition featuring the work of artist Tia Salmela Keobounpheng. Her exhibit, titled "Permission," will be on display at the Finlandia University Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock, from Nov. 29, 2018, to Feb. 15, 2019.

An opening reception for the public will take place at the gallery from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, Nov. 29, with an artist talk beginning at 7:20 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Tia Salmela Keobounpheng (Tia Keo), the 28th Finnish American artist and designer to exhibit in Finlandia University's Annual Contemporary Finnish American Artist Series Exhibition, has spent much of her life exploring the intersection of architecture, design, art and craft. Across disciplines, she creates work that is rooted in the spirit of everyday design principles and organic handcraft of her Finnish heritage.

After ten years of growing as a designer and creative entrepreneur with her Silvercocoon collection of everyday laser-cut acrylic and wood jewelry, she is returning to exploring in art and craft.

"Permission" is a collection of work across mediums that she gave herself the freedom to make -- not tied to marketplace considerations. Hand-woven wall hangings, watercolor and acrylic paintings spurred from her daily painting practice are fodder for her expansion into woven metal sculptures that pull together all of her skills and vision. They are her current, most passionate, permission.

Bosom Bowl no.3, 2018, by Tia Keo. Copper and copper wire.

"My new sculpture work merges metal and weaving. Reliant on the skill of my hands, flat sheets of metal take form and thin fibers of varying materials are repetitively connected to create vessels that are organic and textured, solid and permeable," notes Tia Keo. "These small-scale sculptures started as exploratory exercises and have become symbolic of larger emotional issues I am stewing on. They feel new and also intrinsic. Some reflect my history as a jewelry artist, others are suggestive of the lifelong influence of architecture and design. For the first time in my life, all of my disparate experiences and skills are merging together into one body of work that is tied directly to me claiming my purpose."

Tia’s love of weaving goes back over twenty years and ties her to Finland and to the rich history of women’s work.

"Working with my hands connects ancestral women in my lineage (beyond the grandmothers I never knew) through blood memory and instinctual know-how. Symbolic of the break in tradition, my sculptures allow me to present weaving in an untraditional way; not functional or practical or soft -- but strong with deliberate vulnerability," says Keo.

The artist Tia Salmela Keobounpheng.

Tia’s work also explores how culture, gender, and identity contribute to our internal and external narratives of personal image.

"As a white American woman of Finnish heritage as well as the wife of a Southeast Asian refugee, and the mother of mixed-race children, I am in the unique position to connect to other white Americans as a way to begin working to recognize bias, inspire greater tolerance and to address privilege as it relates to different cultures," says Keo. "Immigrant stories of a hundred years ago relate again and again to the immigrant stories of today which weave tightly into the racial fabric of our society."

Keo’s work inspires an authentic expression of self in order to highlight common threads of humanity, with the grace of a person both boldly questioning and humbly observing.

Keo graduated with a BA degree in Architecture from the University of Minnesota, and co-founded Silvercocoon with her husband in 2001 as a means to work on creative projects across disciplines. In December 2007 she launched her laser-cut jewelry collection under the Silvercocoon label with a solo-trunk show in the Walker Art Center shop. In 2017 she received a MN State Arts Board Grant to help her expand her jewelry practice into metal. The grant became a catalyst for creating new metal jewelry, expanding into metal sculpture, and for developing a daily watercolor practice that has exceeded 500 days.

This activity is made possible, in part, by funds provided by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) through a grant from the McKnight Foundation.

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., Thursday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday Noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 906-487-7500 or email gallery@finlandia.edu

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