April 21, 2014

Consanguinity: Gladys Koski Holmes

Consanguinity by Gladys Koski Holmes
Bedding Plants by Gladys Koski Holmes
Gladys Koski Holmes (1932-2005)  lived almost all of her life in the same small community of Angora, on the edge of the Iron Range. Her work was drawn from her own experience in a familiar Northern Minnesota rural environment, and from roots that extend back through grandparents who emigrated from Finland. Koski earned a master's degree in art from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 1989.
Self Portrait by Gladys Koski Holmes
Iron Range Transition by Gladys Koski Holmes


Koski won the prestigious George Morrison Art Award in 2002 for significant artistic contributions to the arts of the Arrowhead Region. She exhibited her work in a number of exhibitions in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Finland.

In an exhibition catalog for the Viola Hart Endowment exhibit, Gladys wrote about herself, "Because I have always lived in this remote area where art is a foreign language spoken only by a few, I have found myself stretched across a chasm that bridges two disparate worlds: the Iron Range and the Urban-out-there. It has meant a continual search for elements from each and a struggle to synthesize them into some sort of cohesive whole. Through using recognizable imagery that provides a sense of place, while using symbolism and surrealism as transportation into yet another world--observations, ideas, and perhaps a bit of nailing down of culture and history are taking place. It is both the tangible and intangible--tangible objects collaged onto the frames, and the painted realm within.  

"I think these traits come from the very inborn, Finnish characteristics of protecting one's privacy while maintaining persistence in pursuing whatever needs pursuing, and of a spiritual quest for the unknown that draws upon trees, rocks and water. The use of materials stems from a heritage that reaches back for generations in which there is an inner drive to make something out of little or nothing, and make it good as possible, no matter the painstaking process. The strength of women, ancestral women, and the example set by old, rural Finnish women, reaches out through my work."

Of her painting Iron Range Transition, Gladys wrote: "The roll of tarpaper harks back to the thread of the Hoover-days during the Great Depression when people built little tarpaper shacks to live in along the edges of towns. Hoover-days were again threatening with the loss of mining jobs in a one-industry economy. The canning jars inside the bird cage symbolize how the mining industry had preserved a secure way of life but at the same time caged the mind and fostered an unhealthy dependence."

Consanguinity is in my private collection. Other photos are from an exhibition at Finlandia University in 2000. 

In Night Train Red Dust, the ekphrastic poem "Consanguinity" reflects both the image of her painting and my friendship with Gladys. Ekphrastic poems describe a piece of visual art -- and sometimes they correspond with the images or implied narrative.  My poem does this but it also has collected other images her Mandalas and other paintings.  

For info about Night Train Red Dust or links to order the book online, go to: http://sheilapacka.blogspot.com/2014/05/my-geology.html

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