f i n l a n d

aurora borealis

northern finland

Yesterday I boxed up and shipped out 5 pieces to Finland.  I sent them off with hopes of landing an invitation to take the Admissions Course at the University of the Arts Helsinki this May.  Ultimately, of course, I hope to receive a fat letter from them that begins, “Congratulations.”  Living abroad and going to art/graduate school are two lifelong dreams.  To do it with my children, my family, well – fingers crossed.

h e l s i n k i

Of course everyone asks, “Finland?  You have family there?  What’s your connection?”  This all began last year when I started hearing about the Finnish public education system.  As a parent and a teacher my ears pricked up when I learned that their children don’t start school until they are 7-years-old, they experience  shorter school days, a shorter school year, little to no homework and receive no testing until about 15 years of age.  At high school age, the children get to choose an academic path or a high tech path.  If they get into the work and feel they’ve made a mistake  they can change their mind.  All of this and they are consistently ranked in the top three (#1 in 2006) of world leaders in academic achievement. (See PISA rankings).  Yeah – that got my attention.

Anyway – I started chasing a rabbit.  Through the bendy, winding path I learned about an art school program that feels alice-in-front-of-rabbit-holecustom designed for me and that was it – I was off – which brings me here, to today, in love with Finland – Helsinki in particular – and filled with hope and anticipation that my family and I might get to experience first-hand the magic of full immersion in this Nordic wonderland.  I find out on May 13 if I made the first cut.

The things I loved about the application were 1.  Its simplicity and brevity – two  pages; and  2.  They only accept original works (up to five pieces).  They do not want to see websites or emailed portfolios – only the real deal.   I felt challenged and excited by this.  Here was an opportunity to dive into the Finnish culture, root around and get inspired.  Kalevala_cover_Oct6thIt didn’t take long for me to run across The Kalevala – Finland’s Odyssey/Creation mythology.  The stories are rich and colorful and magical and vicious.  The roster of characters and their doings is enough fodder for years of work.  I picked out a few of my favorites and got busy.

I started with some parameters:  my work needed to be small so I could afford to send it.  It needed to represent the kind of work that I hope to enlarge on at school (their guideline).  It needed to be made from materials that would clear customs with no hiccups.  The work needed to be really good.  I cannot say how many things I have made and re-made, trashed and abandoned only to return to after making several alternatives.  I have wrestled with reinterpretation, process, materials and my ugly and unrelenting perfectionism.  I have not wanted to show the work to anyone.  When you share work, when I share work, oftentimes people feel it is an invitation or expectation to make judgments or corrections or some other exclamation.  I did not want that this time.  This work is small and quiet and meticulous and fragile.  I was these things in making it.  Now that the box is sealed and shipped, I can quit holding my breath.  I trust that it will get where it’s supposed to go and do its job.

I will be happy to share the work and news of my adventures in Finland when I go and return in May.  It was so incredibly expensive to send the work (almost as much as a ticket) and a friend suggested I go whether I get to do the Admissions Course or not, so I thought, why not?!  I cannot wait.

Thanks for dropping by.

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