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The New Face of VEMU: A Conversation with Artist Jessie Anneli Viirlaid McNeil

In the second interview in “The New Face of Estonian Museum Canada/VEMU” series, we focus on Estonian-Canadian artist Jessie Anneli Viirlaid McNeil. Her 2015 collage series Outsider Inside delivers us back to the Estonia of 2014’s Tantsu- and Laulupidu.

While walking or parading down the streets of Tallinn, in modern and traditional dress (often a gracious and tactful mixing of the two), visitors and residents from all walks of life were immersed in a celebratory environment of the festival week. During her time in Tallinn, McNeil captured this sensation with her camera, then later, assembled the collage re-representations in her studio. The series was on display at VEMU in spring 2015 and explored the perspective of a Canadian-Estonian during the festival, from moments of mundanity to emotional highs. While expressing themes of memory and experience, McNeil's collages in "Outsider Inside" posed the complex question, "What is an Estonian today?" While working on VEMU’s new brand in 2021, we came back full circle to Jessie’s meaningful collages depicting being Estonian and multicultural tensions. Her works were found to be perfect to visually convey the messages within VEMU’s new brand, here are her thoughts on it all...

KK: When did you first get into being creative, realized you would want to be an artist and pursue it more seriously as a career? 

Jessie McNeil (JM): I think somewhere between ...

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