Skip to content

Into Another World: Works by Finnish American artist Gerald Matthew Immonen (1936-2011)

Finlandia University Gallery will present Into Another World: Works by Finnish American artist Gerald Matthew Immonen (1936-2011) from October 12-November 29, 2021.

An opening reception in celebration of Immonen€™s contribution to Finnish American culture and art will be held on Thursday, October 21st from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

The Finnish American Folk School in partnership with the Buellwood Weavers and Fiber Arts Guild will host a color study yarn winding session in the Finlandia University Gallery at 435 Quincy Street in Hancock.  The exhibition, Gerald Matthew Immonen: Into Another World will serve as inspiration for the color studies.   The public is welcome to attend the event at noon, Monday, October 18th.  Please email the Folk School director, Phyllis Fredendall at if you plan to attend.

Finlandia University was honored to receive a collection of artwork by the preeminent Finnish American artist Gerald Matthew Immonen.  In 1996 Immonen was the featured artist in Finlandia University’s Annual Contemporary Finnish American Artist Series Exhibition, the longest running exhibit series in the United States celebrating the accomplishments of Finnish American artists.

Finlandia University€™s collection of paintings, drawings, sketches and research materials by Gerald Immonen has great significance for the university. “We truly value our role as stewards of Finnish American art and culture. The Finnish American Heritage Center houses North America’s largest collection of Finnish-American artwork and Gerald Immonen’s artwork is now a centerpiece of that collection,” says Finlandia University Gallery Director Carrie Flaspohler.

The collection was donated to the university by Gerry’s wife Delight Immonen, “We are grateful to Gerry’s family for recognizing the importance of his artwork to the Finnish American community and for honoring his heritage through this donation to the Finnish American Heritage Center,” continues Flaspohler.

Immonen also has paintings in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art,  New York City, New York;   the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island;  the Memphis Brooks Museums of Art, Memphis, Tennessee;  and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

Immonen was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 16, 1936. He studied at the Cooper Union and completed his BFA and MFA at Yale University, where he was also awarded The Alice Kimball English Fellowship for Independent  Study and Travel in Italy. He joined the faculty at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1963 as an instructor of Design and was promoted to Professor in 1991. He received the John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1990.

Roger S. Keyes, Director of the Center for the Study of Japanese Prints visited Immonen in his studio in 1998. œ”(Immonen) creates dwelling places where we can contemplate the wonder and beauty, the mystery, depth and sorrow of our lives.  Out of color and form, with the utmost delicacy, patience, and refinement, Immonen creates openings, like windows or doorways, to another dimension of knowledge and awareness.  His paintings are both deliberate and spontaneous, so these openings are both created and uncreated.  Like awareness itself, they are unlikely and miraculous.  The Book of Changes calls openings like these the small doors of the improbable.”

“Beginning in 1998 Gerald Immonen spent roughly half of each year at his home and studio located at the head of Burnt Cove in Stonington, Maine on Deer Isle,” noted  George Kinghorn, Director & Curator of the University of Maine Museum of Art. The University of Maine Museum of Art has many of Immonen’s later works in their collection.

“Immonen has witnessed the beauty of an environment in flux: the changing tides, the leisurely transition of forest colors, the encapsulating fog, and thunderous rainstorms,” continues Kinghorn.  “Immonen captures the shifting light as it cascades across rocks and trees with brushwork that ranges from the meticulous to the highly expressive. Speckles of paint and sweeping slashes are layered atop depictions of twisted branches that stretch to the sky. Immonen’s paintings are less about a literal representation of place, but rather the intangible spirit of being enveloped by nature.”

In communicating nature’s shifts, Immonen said his aim was to take the viewer into a different world, with the same effect a play or opera might have on the audience.

“What I came to understand through theater was, when something moves you, you give up control and it takes you into that world,” Immonen said. “That’s when it becomes transformative. I found, being in the landscape, that sense of wanting to be taken into another world.”

Former colleagues and students reflect on Immonen as an innovative, thoughtful and dedicated teacher. “Gerry was a professor of Two-Dimensional Design in what is now called Experimental and Foundation Studies First-Year Studio. He was known for being tough, assigning a lot of work – always in gouache, making sure students took time to observe the natural world around them as the daylight shifted during the day, and having students work with Color Aid to help them understand color,” says Teek Eaton Koch, former student and teaching assistant for Immonen.

“He loved sharing poems with his students and speaking in a measured almost story-teller type of way.  He always believed the artwork students created should take the viewer on a journey.  One of his assignments had students cut a historic photo or postcard in half and the two halves had to be placed on opposite sides of the illustration board and the students had to find a way to visually connect the two parts in their work.  He was also famous for making students paint hundreds of color chips/swatches with gouache that were “flat and opaque” that would very gradually show the transition or gradient from one color to the next.”

Ken Horii, Professor Emeritus, Spatial Dynamics, Experimental and Foundation Studies at RISD fondly remembers Gerry’s abiding fascination with and love of color, his quiet and engaging presence in the classroom and his talent for finding ways to negotiate life and work with an agile mind, a sense of humor, and an eagle eye for the present.

“Gerry was always looking, seeing, and contemplating what mattered most,” says Horii. “He had a marvelous way of living in balance between past, future, and often, most importantly, the present. He had a big love for jazz music, and I have always been convinced that the way jazz recognizes classic and historic musical arrangements while celebrating improvisation summarizes how Gerry approached his artistic practice and what makes his work so exciting to experience.”

Into Another World: Works by Finnish American artist Gerald Matthew Immonen (1936-2011) will be on display through November 29, 2021.

The Finlandia University Gallery is located 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.