Artist Weaves Ancestral Tapestry with the Historical Textile Photo Installation, “Metsovaara Oy! Galleria” at SLEA
Shiny Journo Reporting
“Metsovaara Oy! Galleria” is a new exhibition celebrating one of the most internationally recognizable, productive, and creative textile artists of all time, Marjatta Metsovaara. She also happens to be the Aunt of a long-time Second Life citizen and prolific RL/SL Artist Musician, Mario Metsovaara. Mario has created a conceptual gallery build at Second Life Endowment for the Art’s central region, SLEA 7, texturizing more than 25 prim tiles with actual photos of textile prints that his famous Finnish Aunt designed. The exhibition also includes several portraits of the celebrated businesswoman and the artist in her prime.
Mario is a true Renaissance man with a powerful urge to learn and create. He holds multiple degrees, including Theology, Music, Counseling, and recently added two more in Audio Production and Art. He has performed inworld for years and has done cross-over events, like the infamous Chicago Jam, collaborating across the divide of RL and Sl to bring wonder to his audiences and satisfy his own needs.
“Ideas are my drug.” He said in our interview. “I’m an introvert who goes out and acts like an extrovert. As a musician, I’m fusion. As a human being, I’m fusion.”
Mario is optimistic and open to share about his creative process. When asked where all this energy and broad interest originates, he courageously revealed his slow discovery and acceptance of ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), something he now calls his “superpower.”
“First, I had to accept it. The energy doesn’t stop. Then I learned to channel it. It became my super focus. I call it “mosquito time” where it seems three minutes is like three hours for other (neurotypical) people.”
This discovery might explain why in addition to the degrees, Mario is a metalsmith, multimedia artist creating artwork in both Professional Art Marker & Prismacolor, a musician, guitarist, instrumentalist, arranger, composer, producer, lyricist, vocalist, and singer-songwriter of experimental progressive fusion.
Mario grew up in an international multi-cultural family of artists, musicians, textile designers, leather-smiths, coppersmiths, silversmiths, artisans, producers, and manufacturers. He was born in the US, in the suburbs of Chicago, on the Illinois & Wisconsin border. In the US, Mario was raised in Illinois, Wisconsin, and upper Michigan. But it was during his formative years Mario lived in Europe and was cared for by his Aunt, Marjatta Metsovaara and Uncle, Albert Van Havere where he was able to attend school in England, he lived in Belgium, traveling to Finland, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
“Living with them was an immersion of color,” he said. It was so stimulating and activating that later in life, he would find himself choosing to wear black and create a more monochromatic world around himself. Still, that habit slowly changed into a feeling of loss as the world appeared drab compared to “so much color at home!” he said. “I took it for granted. There was color out there for sure, but not like my Aunt’s world, not watermelon couches and matching drapes!”
His Aunt, Marjatta Metsovaara, had been taught to be an entrepreneur by her parents, Mario’s grandparents, particularly his grandfather. Marjatta was born in 1927 in Turku, Finland, an ancient port. Her early life was full of financial strife, an effect of two world wars. Finland was crushed economically, and finding materials to create common goods and housewares was near impossible, and decorative pieces seemed out of reach and impractical. Yet, Mario’s ancestors, like their creativity, we’re irrepressible. The culture in the city was reviving with a variety of trade and ideas coming from overseas and this inspired Marjatta’s father, a man of Russian descent, to strive on as an entrepreneur. At the same time, her mother traveled, including an extended stay in the fledgling but exuberant United States of America. As a result, Mario’s young auntie absorbed all atmosphere of commerce and creativity, growing up in her father’s rug and carpet production factories, where the sounds of weaving and the smells and vibrance of dyes surrounded her. As a textile designer and businesswoman, and a significant figure in the Scandinavian design of several decades, she reached international acclaim. As a young lad, Mario had an intimate view of her creative process and work ethic all the while. Mario’s voice changes a bit when he speaks of her, maybe a softening of the heart as he visualizes and appreciates her care and mentorship. “She was always creating and always seeing beauty everywhere. For that, I’m so appreciative.”
After graduating from the Helsinki Institute of Industrial Arts in 1949, she launched her own textile company, Metsovaara Oy (the exhibition’s namesake), in 1954. She was a great experimenter and helped establish a new international demand for striking, unique Finnish-designed patterns. Metsovaara’s style varies from patterns composed of organic forms of saturated colors to more pastel tones. She made both printed and woven textiles, and by 1967 she was designing for ten mills in Finland and overseas. Through the course of her life, she maintained her own design firm and weaving mill in Urjala, Finland, and had many commissions for other notable international textile companies.
The artworks on view in Mario’s exhibition are a mere fraction of the copious creations of his Aunt. Still, the collection captures the sensual, organic, and explorative nature of her aesthetic. Two video kiosks complement the expositional nature of the exhibition with a two-part short video biography of the Marjatta’s life and work.
The gallery build itself is laden with personal symbolism for Mario. The design palette for the structure is heavy with blue and white, a homage to the Finnish flag. Piers of the Baltic Sea inspire the foundation of the gallery. He recalls the smell of wood being chopped and says traditional and modern Finns “are very into their wood!” a notable trait of elegant and at the same time rustic Scandinavian design. Frosted glass makes up the exterior walls, while darker blue glass creates the interior and, for Mario, represents ice and the exhilarating cold of the northern regions.
The ceiling is glass textile shingles and has a skewed angular shape. Mario says it symbolizes the modern eye of Scandinavian design and the glass ceiling his Aunt broke through with her prolific career, adding that Scandinavia was one of the first regions historically to allow women to vote. Above the roof, he has created what he called “the Two Wheels of Change,” geometric polygons each with six triangle faces and eight sides of squares, both slightly off-center, an expression of “jagged change” he says, “change is not smooth, embrace imperfection in its perfection.”
Mario finishes a vibrant conversation with another contemplative moment. It seems again; he journeys into another place deep in his fondest memories of his Aunt, who passed away peacefully in Italy in December of 2014. “One thing I learned when traveling with my Aunt and Uncle, there is beauty in the world, so much beauty.” He hopes people find beauty in this offering.
Metsovaara Oy! Galleria by Mario Metsovaara officially opens with a reception Wednesday, August 18th, 12 PM – 3 PM SLT, with musical performances by A limb and Yadleen at SLEA’s Region 7.
Metsovaara Bio & YouTube videos 1&2
1. Marjatta Metsovaara, the Finnish textile design pioneer, part 1
2. Marjatta Metsovaara, the Finnish textile design pioneer, part 2