Paintings that tell a story benefit from inscriptions and symbols. Both are found in this mural.
The inscription at the bottom even has footnotes. It reads:
“Finnish immigrants valued cooperation (footnote 1), social justice, & personal determination (footnote 2). They worked together for the common good & to build a self-sufficient town. Many supported unions and workers’ rights. And they brought the cleansing sauna, which makes bathing a social occasion.”1. talkoot means work done as a group for the common good. 2. sisu is the very widely understood Finnish trait of calm determination in the face of adversity.
From Finland to Fort Bragg
The title of the mural is lettered at the top, using the handwriting skills I learned in grade school.
The looped square seen in the upper corners of the mural is the hannunvaakuna, a traditional Finnish symbol of good fortune and protection from evil.If it looks familiar, check your computer. Apple started using the looped square on their command key in 1984.
The hannunvaakuna was an ancient pagan symbol appearing on household objects, the oldest known example being a set of 1000-year-old skis. The pre-Christian looped square was common in the Nordic countries, and is now prevalent in modern Baltic nations as a place-of-interest symbol.
The mural’s two geographic places are lettered: SUOMI, which means Finland in the Finnish language, and CALIFORNIA.
A common visual symbol that I love pops up:
The lower right corner contains the word sisu, that well-known Finnish trait of undramatic determination no matter what, approaching a challenge one step at a time until it’s done, of not being deterred by hopelessness or by the inability to predict exactly how a difficulty will be resolved.
The blooming Bleeding Heart flower represents the tragedies and losses that sisu helps one endure. At the right is that very common inscription, the artist’s signature.