Kaarina Kaikkonen’s biography
Kaarina Kaikkonen is one of the most important artistic sculptors of our time. She is best known for her inventive use of second-hand pieces of clothing (mostly jackets & shirts) and molded craft paper to transform public places like churches, streets and plazas into memorable jacket installations. The environment is incorporated into these installations in some way, resulting in a beautiful, colorful cloth landscape. Each garment individually tells a story as an extension of its past wearer, and as a group, they come together to create a history and visual retelling of their space.
Born in 1952 in Iisalmi, Finland, Kaarina Kaikkonen studied medical physics briefly at the University of Kuopio before switching to Finnish Academy of Fine Arts (Bildkonstakademin) where she graduated with top honors in 1983.
Inspiration & more
Kaarina is an artist whose work is primarily in the sculpture niche, with her best-known masterpiece being the installation the Way comprising 3000 men’s jackets on the steps of Helsinki Cathedral in 2000. Kaarina Kaikkonen’s main inspirations are her parents – mom and dad. That’s why the thematic flow of most of her renowned works involves stuff she associates with her parents. Having lost her dad to a heart attack, for one, the sculptress believes that using recycled clothing as her medium offers the comfort much akin to her father’s old garments.
Thanks to several magnificent public works, both small and large-scale, she has done in her home country Finland and elsewhere around the world (read: US, UK, Canada, Japan, and Cuba), she is now a household name in the art world. That’s why it comes as no surprise that her collection has been featured in myriads of world-class museums all over the world, most notably Borås Art Museum, Sweden; Wyoming University Art Museum, US; Helsinki City Art Museum, Finland; and Aine Art Museum, Tornio, Finland, just to name a few.
Kaarina Kaikkonen installations and artworks are monumental and glorious both in creativity and size. The central theme in all her work is using recycled stuff to relive the essence of the previous owner and add nuances to public places. As such, her work is not only approachable but also evokes complex yet ambiguous images. She’s been known to use neckties, shirts, coats and even shoes to breathe more life into her objects, with notable examples being Shadow, an impressive piece she did back in the late 1990s, an installation for the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santiago, Chile and others.
Awards and Recognition
Kaarina Kaikkonen’s contribution to the art world hasn’t gone unnoticed. In her early years as an artist, she managed to snag the National Visual Arts Prize in 1989. She was awarded, subsequently, the Public Prize in Den Haag Sculptuur in 2004, the Finland Prize of Art (2001, 2013), knighted First Class by Order of the Lion of Finland, and received Honorable Mention at Cairo 11th Biennale in 2009.
Video: Interview with Kaarina Kaikkonen