The PIGA project by Jill Johnson

PIGA project

The Piga Project creates new forms of folk art as a way to challenge our ideas about culture and belonging.  Researched over a period of two years in Sweden and the US, Johnson’s project also explores questions around the emigration/immigration process and women’s experience.

The Piga Project utilizes many forms of plastic–from clear colored mylar to opaque drafting film as the material for the creation of hand-sewn folk dresses and printed photographs as well as the Interactive Immigration Altar.  The work is created as a site-specific installation which means that the physical structure of the cultural center itself becomes part of the art piece and process.  Dresses hang in the skylight space and shadows appear and disappear on walls and floors as the sun moves across the sky.

Several workshops will accompany the show.  April 3, Johnson will work with concepts of identity and meaning through clothing– color, fabric, today’s dress, and folk dress as a way to encourage us to think ultimately about the communities we create.  This workshop is part of the High School League art show and is open to High School students with registration through the cultural center.

The artist talk will discuss, through a tour of the exhibit, the effects of immigration on women and families and how these differences may actually be similarities across many cultures and time periods.

The Interactive Immigration Altar workshop will be held Sunday May 4 from 2-4 pm.  During this workshop, participants will explore meaning and belonging, the emigration/immigration process–no matter how long away one is from the time of immigration.  Participants will utilize concepts about frozen immigrant grief from the book Ambiguous Loss by University of Minnesota professor emeritus Pauline Boss.  Symbols will be created and utilized with the floating altar which is based on the permanent installation entitled First Generation by Esther Shalev-Gerz in Stockholm, Sweden.  The workshop is appropriate for all immigration groups from current immigrants to long-settled out communities and First Nations people.  The workshop is free.  Participants are encouraged to bring one healthful non-perishable food item for donation to a local food shelf.

Sunday May 4 at 5pm is a one-hour presentation of spoken word poems and short repeat film loops from Sweden, illustrating the concept of memory.  This is from new work-in-progress that Johnson is working on during her artist-in-residency in New York Mills.  “this is a big experiment with these film and spoken word combinations.  The spoken word illustrates the lives of the women in the dresses and the film loops remind us of the nature of memory– repeat, repeat, repeat in images.”

Johnson’s work is funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board Folk and Traditional Grant, the Arts Partnership Individual Artist grant program, and the Lake Region Arts Council Break-even fund.  Johnson has been creating art since 1995 and in the past ten years has begun reframing and creating new forms of folk art as fine art and community art projects which bring people together through their shared stories of community and belonging.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, and with financial support and backing provided by the Lake Region Arts Council and the MN Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, and by an individual artist grant from the Arts Partnership in Fargo.