Spring is in full swing in Fiskars in May. Trees are sprouting new green, fuller each day. The Fiskars River gently flows in its winding path, linking stunning historical buildings, art and craft studios, galleries, and museums throughout the village. It has been 13 years since I last visited Fiskars. In 2009, I presented Lure/Fiskars in the Fiskars summer exhibition, It is Beautiful Here. Two years prior in 2007, I spent two months working in Fiskars as an international artist-in-residence and participated in the Transparent exhibition.

Lure, site-responsive installation at Fiskars. The installation is red, made with thread, needles
Lure/Fiskars, thread, needles, site-responsive installation, 2009

I have long dreamed of returning to the enchanted landscape of Fiskars. This Spring, I was delighted to return to Fiskars and create a new installation, Still Winds, for the Hidden exhibition at the Copper Smithy Gallery, one of three key exhibitions of the 2022 Fiskars Art and Design Biennale. 

Still Winds is conceptualized and composed for the specific space at the Hidden exhibition and the site and history of the Fiskars Village. I spent my first two days in Fiskars collecting slag stones, a material specific to the land and history of Fiskars. A by-product of iron smelting process, slag stones can be found in many areas throughout the village. They are left behind by the historical foundry, operated between 1987 and 1954. Over the decades, these slag stones have been slowly covered in soft green moss, and half buried in black soil. They are co-inhabiting the woodlands and riverbanks with natural stones as part of the landscape. The porous, grey stones embody the manufacture history of the Fiskars village and hold a unique beauty formed by charcoal and heat meeting iron and air. These stones became the most conceptually significant material for the new installation.

Three photos of Beili Liu's Still Winds installation. On the left Beili is photographed above while she is working on the installation. The middle photo show's Beili collecting stones, and on the right picture, a woman is standing in the middle of the installation.
Still Winds, work-in-progress and installation views

Still Winds is an installation created from paper, cyanotype, and these locally collected stones-- half of the composition consists of slag stones, and the other half of natural pebbles. Hundreds of vertical lines of luminous blue hues, reminiscent of summer rain, descend from the sky downwards, hovering just inches above the ground. At the end of each line, a stone is suspended. Imprints of sunlight are captured and preserved within the rich blue hues through the cyanotype process. Still Winds recalls the moment when the wind ceases, when the leaves in trees turn silent and their shadows become still--a transient moment of peace before the uncertainty of future resumes. The installation speaks to the fragile balance between the imprints of human actions and our precious natural environment.

I hold gratitude for the warm welcome and the generous support from the Fulbright Finland Foundation that enabled my visit to Finland, and the creation of this new artwork. I am honored to join the network of Fulbright Finland Alumni as an Inter-Country Grant recipient. The grant provided crucial support for my travel from Tromsø, Norway, to Fiskars, Finland. While in Fiskars,I delivered two artist talks, one in collaboration with the Fiskars Artist-in-Residence program, and one during the press conference for the biennale. During my time in Finland, I was delighted to travel to Helsinki and attended the Fulbright Finland Award Ceremony at the Helsinki City Hall. During this celebration, in addition to meeting the supportive team of Fulbright Finland, making valuable connections with Fulbright Finland Grantees, I also met Anu Härkönen, Head of International Affairs, Turku University of Applied Sciences, and David Yoken, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Fulbright Finland Foundation. It was such a heart-warming gift to see David at the opening celebration in Fiskars! I am grateful for the friendship and hospitality that I have experienced in Finland. 

Crowd of people listening to a man talking during an opening ceremony of the Hidden exhibition at Fiskars
Hidden exhibition opening ceremony, Fiskars, Finland

I am proud to serve as the first Fulbright Arctic Chair in the Arts. I am excited to join forces with science and the humanities researchers, and to contribute an artistic perspective as we tackle the pressing concerns of our time, from the environment, to education, to the wellbeing of all on earth. I see art as the universal language that can transcend differences and forge connections. It is an effective tool for cross-cultural exchange, and for building empathy and mutual understanding. As an educator, I have observed over the years how art has empowered my students, and enabled their diverse voices in joining the discourse of creating positive change. I look forward to future collaborations with Fulbright Finland Foundation and Finnish education and culture institutions.

Fiskars Village Art and Design Biennale is open until September 4, 2022:

Headshot of Beili Liu
Beili Liu
2022 Fulbright Finland Inter-Country Grantee, Onoma Cooperative, Fiskars; 2021-22 Fulbright Arctic Chair, Norway; 2022-24 Andrew Carnegie Fellow

Beili Liu is Leslie Waggener Professor in Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, USA. 

Photo: Philip Rogers