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Heather Allen Hietala: Evolution

HANCOCK, MI –The Finlandia Art Gallery will present Evolution, an exhibit by Finnish American artist Heather Allen Hietala at the Finlandia Art Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock from April 12 – June 5, 2024.

A reception for the artist will take place at the gallery, Friday, April 12th  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.

Allen-Hietala grew up in rural New Hampshire at the end of a half mile dirt road in the foothills of the White Mountains, and her experiences growing up so close to nature and the cyclical nature of the seasons significantly influenced her life and work. Six months of winter with its quiet and meditative presence,  the first signs of spring with every shade of green and the return of birdsong leading into the glorious months of summer and finally transforming into the vibrant oranges and yellows of autumn still resonate within her artwork today

Allen-Hietala studied painting and sculpture at the University of New Hampshire and textiles at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. She furthered her studies at Penland School of Crafts, Haystack, and Arrowmont. Her path through her education introduced her to many techniques and artistic practices which she later integrated into a mature style unique in its innovative use of media and combination of materials. 

75 State, cotton, linen, silk, antique linens, paper, dye, textile ink, buttons, charms, hand painted, screen printed, hand quilted, embroidery, 44″ x 38″ x ½” 

After spending two years in Japan where people spend a lot of time on the floor, Allen-Hietala came back with the idea of putting one of her paintings on the floor…this idea led her to studying different techniques of making floor coverings.  Remembering her Finnish American grandmother’s rag rugs prompted Allen-Hietala to take a two day workshop in rag rug making and her journey began.  Her art making and research led her to writing a pivotal weaving book called “Weaving Contemporary Rag Rugs” which explored the history of the rag rug and contemporary applications of the technique. 

Finlandia Art Gallery will be exhibiting a retrospective of art textiles for the wall.  Allen-Hietala is well known in the textile world, as both artist and educator.  Her vibrant textiles look to her life experiences for inspiration.  “I have a unique way of using intuition and experience to guide me, engaging in a dialogue that explores relationships and the cyclical nature of life,” says Allen-Hietala. “I am an innovator across many mediums; including wood and salt-fired ceramics, cloth, wire, paper, gut and natural materials from my orchard garden.”.

97 Horseshoe Bend, cotton, linen, silk, dye, textile ink, hand dyed and over dyed, hand painted, silk-screen, mono-printed, paste resist, embroidery, machine and hand assembled and quilted, 62” x 28

Combining traditional textile art techniques with painting, Allen-Hietala creates pieces that explore the sense of space. Interior architecture has been the subject for many of her colorful textiles, including stairways, doors, landings and windows. “Stairways alluded to a journey, becoming metaphors for expressing various paths, transitions, and thresholds within life’s experiences,” notes Allen-Hietala. “The negative spaces and shadows enter into the dialogue, extending the pieces and representing the unsaid between individuals or the spiritual world. I am interested in duality and the idea of two (or more) things that are intrinsically bound together, made by the same hand.”

Also represented in the Finlandia Art Gallery exhibit are textiles with images of boats.  “Like staircases, boats are universal, evoking mystery, inquiry and represent the universal journey we are all on,” says Allen-Hietala. “Canoes, paddles, sailboats, ferries, seedpods, weaving shuttles, and kayaks are part of my personal history. The vessel is all its many forms is now my muse. For me they evoke a universal sense of journey, symbolize the self and can be a metaphor of interior and exterior, of protection and containment, of transport and journey. They are both universal and personal.”

Blue Bird II, rayon, cotton, silk, antique textile appliqué, hand woven, hand painted, screen-printed, beads, buttons, 40″ x 24″ X 1/2″   

Heather Allen Hietala’s work has been exhibited internationally and she has taught and lectured throughout the US, Canada, Japan, Nepal and Thailand. She has published numerous articles on textiles, textile artists and creative journaling. Her work is numerous public and private collections including the Racine Art Museum, Asheville Art Museum, and Greg Museum of art and Design among others. Momentum Gallery, Asheville, NC and Oeno Gallery, Bloomfield, Ontario represents her work.

During her visit to Hancock, Allen Hietala will be teaching two workshops, Contemporary Embroidery Sampler Book and Textile Techniques with Wire for the Finnish American Folk School.  Her exhibit Evolution will be on display in the Finlandia Art Gallery through June 5, 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-4:30 pm Monday-Friday.