‘Evolution’ part of busy weekend at FAHC

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Heather Allen Hietala’s works will be on display at her new exhibit “Evolution,” which will be at the Finnish American Heritage Center from Friday through June 5. A reception will take place Friday starting at 7 p.m.

HANCOCK — While Heather Allen Hietala is making her first trip to the Copper Country this weekend, the six-month winters and its Finnish heritage contributed to her art.

Allen Hietala’s exhibit “Evolution” will be displayed in the Finlandia Art Gallery at the Finnish American Heritage Center from Friday through June 5.

A reception will take place at the gallery Friday from 7 to 8 p.m., with an artist talk starting at 7:20 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Allen Hietala, who grew up in rural New Hampshire, was influenced by growing up close to nature and the cycling of the seasons. She also developed Finnish influences through her grandmother, who she would visit every summer, learning Finnish cooking and crafting techniques.

The painted textile pieces on display at the gallery draw on the traditional influences of her grandmother’s rag rugs. It’s also influenced by the two years she spent in Japan. Noting the amount of time they spend on the floor, she began to wonder what her paintings would look like there.

That artmaking led her to write “Weaving Contemporary Rugs,” which explored their history and the technique’s modern usage. It also gave her a tie to the Keweenaw and the building where her exhibit now stands: After her book was published in 1996, she wrote a long article for the Finnish-American Reporter.

Allen Hietala started working iwith textiles in graduate school. She was interested in color, and she wanted to work in a tactile medium where there weren’t instruments such as a printing press between her and the art.

It starts with white, textured fabric (“I like fabric that already has a personality”), which she paints with thickened dye or textile inks.

Staircases feature prominently in her work, an imprint of the “crazy houses with funky, strange architecture” she grew up with in New England. Her work also grew to incorporate boats, inspired by sailing off the coast of Maine and the idea of being in a vessel, powered by wind.

As you get older,” the gravitational pull of youth shifts,” Allen Hietala said.

“When you’re in a boat, it’a journey, but a different kind of journey, so you’re not held by gravity,” she said.

Her work progressed from more colorful pieces about giving joy and the celebration of color in nature to quieter, more introspective black-and-white works.

“You can envision or relate to it, because we’re all vessels,” she said. “We can all relate to it, but it’s not as specific as the staircases. I’m hoping it’s more contemplative, where the color is more energetic.”

Especially with textiles, there’s always little details and attention to craftsmanship, she said. She hopes everyone will take away something from the art.

“If I can touch them in some way, I think that’s every artist’s hope,” she said.

While in Hancock, Allen Hietala will also teach two workshops, Contemporary Embroidery Sampler Book and Textile Techniques with Wire for the Finnish American Folk School.

Allen Hietala’s exhibit and reception is one of several events this weekend tied to the Finlandia Foundation National’s annual board meeting in Hancock, which starts Thursday and ends Saturday. They include a meet and greet at the FAHC starting at 3 p.m. Thursday, the re-opening of the FAHC at 1:30 p.m. Friday, and Hanna Pylväinen’s lecture and book signing at North Wind Books at 3 p.m. Saturday.

For some Finlandia Foundation National board members, it will be the first trip to see the properties they voted unanimously to preserve last spring after the announcement Finlandia University would close. They will also celebrate the “Saving Finland in America” campaign, which rallied donors to contribute funds towards the purchase.

Allen Hietala is breaking her gluten-free fast to enjoy the Finnish pastries. She’s honored to have the exhibit in Hancock, and to have it coincide with the reopening and the Finlandia Foundation meeting.

“I’m looking forward to being around people that I will connect with, because there’s a shared something,” she said. “…I think the older you get, the more you’re aware of the things that set you apart and make you who you are.”


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