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Cynthia Coté: Requiem for the Overlooked

The artist Cynthia Coté

HANCOCK, MI –The Finlandia Art Gallery will present REQUIEM FOR THE OVERLOOKED, an exhibit by Calumet artist Cynthia Coté at the Finlandia Art Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock from February 8 – April 3, 2024.

A reception for the artist will take place at the gallery, Thursday, February 8th  from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. with an artist talk beginning at 7:20 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

REQUIEM FOR THE OVERLOOKED is an installation of drawings, collage, beadwork, and fiber art constructions, displayed alongside a collection of objects that inspired the work.

Nest with Leaf (detail), Pen on paper drawing, 2023

Representing years of artistic practice, this exhibit reveals connecting themes that run through Coté’s work, regardless of when the work was made or which media she has employed.  From her recent delicate pen and ink drawings, to her luminous beadwork, from earlier collage work to her series of colored pencil portraits, Coté’s works are meaningful reflections on life lived.  Themes of comfort and the mystery of time runs through her art as well as her fascination with the beauty of humble found objects.

Growing up in a large family, Coté learned at a young age how to entertain herself making things – using her imagination and materials that she could find. There is a similarity in the way in which she works as an adult person – collecting and using simple, found materials as inspiration or as subjects for drawings.

Woman Holding a Dog, Colored pencil, pen and ink

Coté has a daily drawing practice and her most current works in the exhibit are pen drawings on tan Rives paper. At the same time spontaneous and precise, these ink drawings had their beginnings in Coté learning about foraging materials for basket weaving in the fall of 2023. 

“Feeling the urgency of the season, like a gardener putting up food for the winter, I couldn’t stop foraging,” says Coté. “I collected supplies that in themselves were beauty. I learned how to make cordage, petite ropes twisted from plant life.”  With this new collection of bundles of crocosmia, iris and day lily leaves, driftwood sticks, bark, and coiled roots filling her studio, Coté started a series of drawings based on her collection of natural objects.  Soon other found objects made their way into the work, “The drawings started with these supplies but came to include found bent and rusty nails, bones, leaves, tree branches, nests, my own and other artists’ work, trinkets, and buttons,” notes Coté. “The story is still unfolding…”

Coté’s installation in the gallery  includes her artwork as well as her collected objects, “The objects that accompany the artwork in this exhibit are curated from my extensive collection of found natural and hand made things,” says Coté.  “ I included these objects to share information about my studio life – what inspires my practice of drawing and art making.”

Gathering Basket (detail), Pen and colored pencil

Born and raised downstate Michigan, Coté moved to the UP in 1980, again in 1987, and then in 1992 it stuck. She spent every penny she had on an old mine house in Osceola Location near Calumet and never looked back, knowing that she had come home.

Since settling in the Copper Country, Coté has had an enormous impact on the art community here.  A founding director of the Copper Country Community Arts Center (CCCAC) in Hancock and its steward for the last 32 years, Coté has been a champion of all things art, paving the way for countless artists to find gallery representation or take classes to broaden their art practice.

Her leadership at the CCCAC has touched the lives of area youths through arts camps, youth art exhibits and internships.  She has also administered grants that have developed the art programming in numerous Upper Peninsula organizations.  Her legacy in arts administration will be long felt.

One example of her lasting influence was recently shared by community artist Phyllis Fredendall.  “Many years ago Cynthia created The Shaft Show, an annual show open to all art inspired by our mining history,” related Fredendall.  “ I created my first mine maps in felt for one of the first shaft shows.  Those first small pieces were seeds to a long and engaging series of mine maps including the piece I created for the Opie Reading Room at Tech.  My ancestors were miners so the mine shaft as a metaphor resonates for me.  I continued working with that theme for many years.  Thank you for the inspiration, Cynthia!”

And through all of this arts advocacy,  Coté has continued her unique and marvelous art practice.  What a treasure!

Falling Leaves Applique, Beadwork

REQUIEM FOR THE OVERLOOKED will be on display through April 3, 2024.

Finlandia Art Gallery is located  in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock, 906-487-7500 or email Gallery hours are 9:00am-4:00pm Monday-Friday.