The exhibition is composed of work drawn from three recent series entitled Southern Comfort, Flora and Fauna and Harmony Sisters. The images, most of which were taken in Männikkö’s native Finland, are intermixed in an installation created by the artist to suggest a narrative about life in a rural setting. As he describes it, “My installation is like a village, composed of people, animals, buildings, still lives – all together.” Männikkö places his photographs in old found frames carefully selected to complement the details or subjects of his images. He also uses the rough thrift store quality of the frames to serve as an ironic reference to his backwoods origins.
Southern Comfort is comprised of interiors filled with discarded, abandoned objects and nonsensical furniture assembled from odd bits of refuse. These objects and spaces emanate a sense of history undercut with an ironic haphazardness. An avid outdoorsman, Männikkö devotes a portion of each year to hunting and fishing. The small intimate studies of dead birds and fish in Flora and Fauna pay respect to their subjects and the cycle of life in nature. In Harmony Sisters horses and cows are seen up close and in detail. Focusing on the texture of hair, the patterns of markings or tight shots of the muzzle and teeth, the images are nearly abstract.
Recognized as Young Artist of the Year in Finland in 1995, Männikkö first gained international prominence with his portraits of Finnish bachelors in the “Far North” who epitomized a kind of loneliness and self-reliance. In 1996, he was awarded an ArtPace international artist residency in San Antonio, Texas, where he photographed the residents of two small Mexican American communities on the border of South Texas. An ongoing series titled Organized Freedom focuses on abandoned houses discovered on walks throughout remote parts of Finland. With twenty-five percent of the country unemployed, the owners of the houses have, in the words of the artist, “locked the door and walked away” leaving their rural life for the city.