The Annunciation (Exhibition press release 2002)
In our culture, the Annunciation is a rare piece of evidence of a woman’s deeply spiritual experience. Old legends show humans as seekers of inner truths: revelations and apparitions were regarded as natural phenomena when looking for a connection to the spiritual. Indeed, what evidence Mary found and how it was recorded!
My exhibition consists of digitally manipulated photographs. To me, visual expression signifies thought, debate and communication. I move between art, entertainment and religious iconography.
The faces in my exhibition are faces of mute, incomprehensible and silenced witnesses. What remained after the Annunciation: textiles, embroidery, or home-baked cakes?
In our multicultural times you may see a veiled “Mary” walking down the street. What is the spiritual difference between a woman repressed by a veil, and a woman with silicone implants, repressed by the male gaze? What is the evidence, and what is woman talk, often regarded as incomprehensible prattle?
The idea for this exhibition came to me in 1998 while I was creating my environmental art project titled The Garden of Death in Jyväskylä. The project was a dialogue with a similarly titled work by a Finnish artist Hugo Simberg. While creating my “flower beds” from disposable cutlery in public view, I felt it was quite necessary to cover my identity with a costume and thus visually express to the audience what could not be directly read from the actual work. As a representative of my gender I could not dress as a skeleton in a black cloak, because I found to my surprise that Death has always been depicted as a male character. In place of a scythe that cuts life off, I chose a black pram to depict the sowing of death, the opposite of giving birth.
An important part of women’s culture cherishes life by making occasions memorable: decorating graves, wedding cakes, birthdays and so on. The documentation of me working in this costume created the character of Virgin Mary for this exhibition. The background for the various faces of Virgin Mary is my own portrait. Virgin Mary is a self-portrait as well as an eternal, mythical figure travelling through time.
Except for the self-portrait, the photographs that I have used are everyday photographs, taken on my travels while setting up my exhibitions, in my home and its neighbourhood. The stormy clouds were photographed in the garden of Huittinen Public Health Centre, when a sudden downpour interrupted my planting of The Plastic Garden. The wire fence was shot on the Pitäjänmäki Railway Bridge while I was in Helsinki to view the site for my installation called The Seat of Romance. While I visited my mother in Huittinen, she served coffee and cakes and I met my godchild, an occasion which was captured by my digital camera. When my parents moved out of the house where I spent my childhood, the rose bush I was very fond of was uprooted and moved to their summer cottage. The peony was photographed in the first garden I ever owned here in Jyväskylä.
My “painter’s palette” includes photographs that capture moments of my life, which I have used instead of a paintbrush. In place of a palette knife, I have digitally picked, for example, the red hue of a peony and tinted the sky with it.
The opposite gender does not feature in my photographs but exists on the outside, as the “other” to converse with through the pictures recognised by art history, and as the creator of the culture I am mirroring.
This is my first exhibition using digitally manipulated photographs. Thematically, it is a continuation of a series of paintings I made titled Women, Flowers, Tears and Beasts (in watercolour, ink, pastels and pigments) which was last exhibited in Vaasa in 1999.
The digital exhibition includes an animation feature called Andy and me at