The University of Arkansas at Little Rock will host a photography exhibit by alumni Dylan Yarbrough that documents the gatherings around a public sauna in Finland.
The exhibit, “Sompasauna,” will be on display from Feb. 22 to March 19 in the Focus Gallery at the Windgate Center of Art and Design at UA Little Rock. This ongoing photography project documents the community that gathers around a public sauna in Helsinki, Finland. The communal bathing space, known as Sompasauna, has been nestled between the urban wasteland of a former harbor and the Baltic Sea since 2011.
“Regardless of gender, race, class, nationality, or any other disposition, visitors are expected to coexist in peace,” Yarbrough said. “Unlike commercial saunas, Sompasauna relies on the effort of every visitor to fetch water, chop wood, make repairs, and clean up. The point is to literally bare all, enjoy the Finnish ritual of Löyly, be invigorated by cold water, and share life and ideas. Construction of luxury condos in the area is expected to expand and eventually threaten the existence of this place.”
Until then, Sompasauna inspires a diverse sub-culture of people who celebrate the notion of egalitarian bathing space. This body of work raises questions about place, community, trust, and larger expectations for well-being in society.
Yarbrough, an adjunct professor of photography at UA Little Rock, graduated from UA Little Rock with a BFA with an emphasis in photography in 2016 and completed his MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2020.
His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including recent shows at the Center For Creative Photography, Arcade Gallery, Midwest Center for Photography, and Historic Arkansas Museum. He is currently the 2020 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Lives Artist and was the recipient of the 2019 Stuart Abelson Fellowship.