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Artist biography


Mashue (South Eagle Woman)
Davison, Michigan

Image of Sally Thielen

Although Sally Thielen was raised in a family that impressed upon her the richness of her cultural heritage, it wasn't until becoming disenchanted with her career in nursing that she began to seek a way of visually expressing that heritage. A community education class in pottery was followed by five years of study at the Flint Institute of Arts, where she also received training in weaving and making handmade paper.

Sally Thielen is recognized as an accomplished artist in many media, but is perhaps best known for her raku porcelain masks. She uses only Native Americans as models. When the masks are finished, she preserves her models' identities by referring to them only by their first names.

In addition to creating art, Thielen regularly teaches in adult education and private schools. Family involvement in her art is important to her, and each family member contributes in an important way: her husband provides technical and marketing assistance, her children serve as valuable in-house critics, and her grandchildren are eager students of the Chippewa traditions that she shares with them. In order to create beaded bags and ornaments faithful to these traditions, Thielen spends hours researching historical and contemporary patterns and designs.

Thielen's work has been shown in galleries and museums all over the world, including Russia, Canada, France, and numerous locations in the United States. She was recently honored to be asked to create a beaded ornament for the White House Christmas tree.

Artist's work

Image of Water Woman by Sally ThielenObject measurements and display specifications:

Sally Thielen
Water Woman, 1994
Rak√ļ fired porcelain mask with interactive video camera
Sisters of the Great Lakes Collection
MSU Museum 7594.23

Piece held in wall mounted case: back panel height = 60 inches; back panel width = 26 inches; depth of case = c.12 inches. Back panel of case mounts on split batten or hang bar. Case has acrylic face plate which is secured by upper and lower mounting fixtures. Acrylic face is 3/8 inch in thickness. Box base conceals VCR unit - dimensions = 15 x 3.5 x 13 inches. Porcelain mask mounts on hook on wall of case. Wiring for the video camera runs through a hole behind the mask and down the back of case.  VCR equipment is concealed by a fitted box base.