Piece about progress for students entering MSU

Dana Sikkila knows that the life of an artist can be unpredictable. That feeling was inspiration for her latest gallery, “Always In Progress”.

Sikkila’s gallery is located downstairs in the Centennial Student Union at Minnesota State University, Mankato and is showing until Sept. 16.

“The past couple of years, I’ve been really interested in the ongoing question: What are you going to do next?” Sikkila said.

“Myself is someone who is kind of known for having new shows, new opportunities, new ideas. I’m flushing out old things and going into new things constantly. That’s a strong suit of mine; I’m always progressing forward. But then that’s a really exhausting thing — to feel like you have to be doing new things.”

In addition to building the artwork for the gallery, Sikkila is also a part time teacher at MSU and runs a different gallery. Between her busy schedule and recent social isolation as a result of the pandemic, she felt she was in progress with discovering how to better make art from home. 

“I’ve been trying to figure out: how can I work more at home versus just in the studio?” she said. “That’s where painting came in. I’m able to print-make on the wooden panels and then paint into them. It’s a process of accessibility and what I enjoy doing.”

The way that the message comes across in the work is through the symbolism used. 

“And so, the idea of the hands and the eyes, [is] being able to predict what’s the best thing for me to do next and trying to visualize that. I use the symbolism of the hands like being able to palm read. Fortune teller symbolism — I’m always attracted to that. My hands are dictating what I do next as a maker. I need my eye to envision what it is, and my hands to do what it is.

“Then the idea of the bee is the idea of the maker and the worker. Bees are known for working together to make a society and a community run; that’s their hive. People can look at it, and it’s visually appealing to them, but for me, it’s more about those objects that connect to the way that I’m thinking and the way that I’m currently feeling.”

Adding to the overall feeling of transformation is the revisit to the gallery itself. Before becoming a teacher, Sikkila studied as a student at MSU. 

“It’s really great to come back as an educator now, to show in that same space, and to show my personal reflection of how my work has changed. It’s great to be able to have that reflection point because you are in that same space.”

The space is familiar, as is the sense of wonder towards the future. Sikkila said, “A lot of my work, I hang up and more of a collage style. It’s not paintings on the wall in a straight line. I like the work to be a little chaotic and a little all over the place, maybe a little visually overwhelming, because that’s how I feel when you’re asked the question: what are you doing next? We have that internal feeling of chaos.”

It’s OK to feel that chaos. It’s something that Sikkila faces, and she encourages students to stop by her gallery and accept this reality in a positive way.

Header Photo: Dana Sikkila uses imagery of butterflies to express the feeling of being in a state of transition – something new students find themselves in. (Ajay Kasaudhan/The Reporter)

Write to Lilly Schmidt at Lillian.Schmidt@mnsu.edu

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