Vaino Kola: Living Here Feels Like I am In My Homeland, Finland

May 17 – August 24, 2024


Living Here Feels Like I am In My Homeland, Finland features paintings and works on paper by Finnish-born artist Vaino Kola. After serving as a professor at Wheaton College in Massachusetts for 26 years, Kola settled in Deer Isle, Maine in 1994. Seemingly untouched, picturesque locations in and around Deer Isle, have provided an endless supply of inspiration for Kola’s landscapes. Many of the oil on canvas paintings in the exhibition are inspired by locations in Maine, and in fact, some are but a stone’s throw from the artist’s studio. Kola has a great affinity for his remote island which, with its terrain, flora and climate, reminds him of his Finnish homeland.  

While Kola’s paintings appear to be exacting representations of a specific location, the artist takes considerable liberty in rendering the environment. A particular boulder may be depicted, in different positions, in multiple compositions; while he manipulates lighting and environmental conditions on the canvas for creative impact. Kola states “Nature is very beautiful, but nature should be changed when making art. In my works, I eliminate things, add things, and move things around, so it works for me artistically.” 

Also included in the exhibition are a stunning assortment of etchings that showcase Kola’s skill as a draftsman. A number of the etchings capture the beauty of winter. For example, the artist has depicted snow-lined trees in wooded environments on the outskirts of Oslo, Norway, near the home of the artist Edvard Munch. Winter in Maine inspired Kola’s series Deer Isle Suite which reflects those quiet days when mounds of snow cover the weighted branches of majestic evergreens. Norton Woods, 1976, a large-scale etching from the Zillman Art Museum collection, demonstrates Kola’s masterful approach to drawing and the use of sensitive lines to render a forest of bare-branched trees lined with snow. The work is technically complex, in part due to the sheer size of the copper plate that measures 36” X 47.5”, which pushes the limits of the etching process.   


Sepia tone etching of a root system from multiple overlapping views           Rocks partially covered and surrounded by snow and ice

Left: VAINO KOLA (American, born 1937). Roots, 1998. Etching. Courtesy of the artist.

Right: VAINO KOLA (American, born 1937). Shore Rocks with Ice and Snow, 1999. Oil on canvas. Private collection.