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Textile Arts at Finlandia Gallery June 20 to September 8

HANCOCK, MI – Finnish textile artists, mother and daughter Riitta-Liisa Haavisto (1930-2009) and Anna-Riitta Haavisto, will exhibit their work at the Finlandia University Gallery June 20 to September 8, 2011. The gallery is located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock.

The exhibit is titled “White Forests, Blue Sky: Two Generations of Art Textiles, Paper and Metal Constructions.” Two events related to the exhibit will take place.

ANNA-RIITTA HAAVISTO Sweet Times, Mixed technique / paper, newsprint (Financial Times), Size: 19.68 x 19.68 x D 1.57 in  (50 x 50 x d 4cm). Photo: Matti HuuhkaThe first, at the gallery on Thursday, June 23, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., is part of a “Gallery Walk” in conjunction with the 2011 Northern Wefts Weaver’s Conference, which takes place in Hancock June 20 to 25.

The second is a closing reception with Anna-Riitta Haavisto on Thursday, September 8, 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Haavisto will speak at 7:15 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Riitta-Liisa Haavisto and Anna-Riitta Haavisto transform the traditional methods and materials of the textile arts in markedly different ways. Riitta-Liisa employed an expressive, painterly approach to embroidery, using jewel-toned fabrics and threads to create scenes inspired by nature, folklore, and current events.

ANNA-RIITTA HAAVISTO Pills of Joy I  (2006), Mixed technique / Pill containers, cotton, Size: H 1.96 in x W 1.96 in x D 0.78 in  (5 x 5 x 2 cm). Photo: Matti HuuhkaRiitta-Liisa’s daughter, Anna-Riitta, stretches the boundaries of fiber art in thought-provoking, three-dimensional sculptural objects constructed of sand, stones, steel, plastic, fiber, silk, cotton, paper, wood-and even water.

The mother’s and daughter’s work may differ in execution, but what they share of their personal histories, life experience, and inspirations creates an artistic resonance in their work.

“Although they are from different generations, Riitta-Liisa and Anna-Riitta share a common source of inspiration: Laila Karttunen (1895-1981), one of the most renowned textile artists in Finland and Riitta-Liisa’s aunt,” notes Pirkko Vekkeli in the article “Relative Values” for the journal Embroidery (UK, 2002).

“Laila Karttunen’s love of vibrant colors and textiles made a deep impression on her younger relatives,” Vekkeli explains. “One might say that these characteristics have been transferred from one generation to the next. Both mother and daughter draw from the same tradition: a passionate use of color.”

Riitta-Liisa Haavisto was trained as a fashion designer and she worked for the Finnish fashion industry for most of her career. At the same time she was a lecturer in several art colleges in Finland, for example at the University of Art & Design Helsinki. She was also a full time lecturer at the Häme Polytechnic for 14 years.

RIITTA-LIISA HAAVISTO Awakening City (detail), Hand and machine embroidery/stitching, Cotton, linen, silk, viscose.Riitta-Liisa was the president of the Finnish Association of Fashion Designers MTO for a number of years and she has won many prizes in various design competitions over the years. She also received the prestigious Bruno Mathsson Award for Nordic Design in 1984, and became an honorary member of the Finnish Association of Designers ORNAMO in 2005.

After her retirement Riitta-Liisa Haavisto concentrated mainly on producing her artworks.

“Haavisto’s fibers of choice are silk, cotton, linen and viscose – always mixed in one piece and sometimes used together as a single thread for the right color effect and texture,” describes Nell Znamierowski in Embroidery in 2005.

“One of Finland’s most highly regarded embroidery artists, Riitta-Liisa Haavisto will long be remembered for her elegant abstractions stitched with an uninhibited style,” notes Carol K Russell of Riitta-Liisa in Fiber Art Today (U.S., 2011).

“In layers of impossibly fine threads, she suspends her audience somewhere between recognition and sensation. Her designs were inspired by people, of whom she made piles of sketches or by childhood imaginings of hobgoblins and fairies inhabiting the Finnish forests,” continues Russell.

“Enigmatic subjects, portrayed with minimal but convincing expression are intensified by potent elements such as negative space and deep mysterious backgrounds. Yet, nothing seems willed here. It is as if each form or color reveals the next logical note in the music of her personal sphere. Present always though is the unmistakable equilibrium of a master conductor.”

Anna-Riitta Haavisto studied textile art and design in London, England from 1977 to 1980 and 1981 to 1982, first at the University of East London and later at the Central St. Martins College of Art & Design (current names).

Anna-Riitta’s approach to her art is experimental, often employing non-conventional materials in her sculptures. She draws inspiration from nature, as well as from culture, religion, and political and environmental subjects.

In her article for Fiberarts, “The Haavistos of Helsinki” (U.S., 2001), Russell describes the strength of Anna-Riitta’s sculptures: “Anna-Riitta transforms vast, interconnected human dilemmas into taut, focused fiber sculptures. Her approach, less descriptive than either her mother’s or her aunt’s, reflects a rare inner consonance with an unpredictable and often discordant universe.”

Carol K. Russell closely examines Anna-Riitta’s work in her book Fiber Art Today, “Inspired by the iconic box of chocolates from the film Forrest Gump, her work Sweet Times contains similar layers of possibilities and surprises. With her experimental inclination coupled with the aesthetic influences of the cubists and the Bauhaus, the artist vents personal or societal realities through the orderly visual languages she was taught as a child.”

“With tradition as point of departure, the Haavistos set free the threads and structures of handcrafted textiles to assume deeper metaphors and meanings as fine art,” notes Carol K. Russell in Fiber Art Today.

Since 1998, the Haavistos’ work has been featured in more than 22 joint exhibitions in Finland, England, Scotland, Norway, Germany, Spain, the United States, and Canada, and in dozens of group exhibitions.

This exhibition celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the Finnish Association of Designers ORNAMO.

More information about the artists is included in the book, Fiber Art Today, by Carol K. Russell, published in 2011 by Schiffer Publishing Ltd, Atglen, Pennsylvania, USA.

White Forests, Blue Sky is on display at the Finlandia University Gallery through September 8, 2011.

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or by appointment. Please call 906-487-7500 for more information.