Veijo Rönkkönen was a loyal employee who went to work every day at a paper mill for 41 years. He never went anywhere but work and home. He lived on a farm surrounded by dense forest. And almost nobody knew of this Finnish factory worker until his death in 2010.
When he died, hundreds of sculptures were found in the woods behind his house. The site is now a tourist attraction with more than 25,000 people visiting it each year. And it is also one of the world’s eeriest places.
The sculpture garden might not sound fascinating at all until you get closer to the sculptures and realize that some of them sport real human teeth. Others have speakers planted inside and cause warbling sounds.
While he lived, Veiljo was known as something of a recluse. He worked in a paper mill for 41 years. He spent his days between the factory and his farm, tucked away in a Finnish forest.
But he was incredibly well raid and experienced the world through the page. He never discouraged visitors, but he remained aloof from the tourism and similar activities.
By all accounts, he didn’t like to talk to people. He never took any art lessons. But by the time of his death, his farm was covered with more than 550 sculptures. Nearly all of them depict human figures.
Born in 1944 in the rural hamlet of Parikkala, Finland, sculptures represent his life’s work and his community. That is how he interacted with the world.
By the time he was 16, he began working at a local paper mill. There, he pressed liquid from paper pulp until his eventual death. As the story goes, he used his first paycheck to buy apple seedlings and a bag of concrete.
And from those first spoils, he developed his sculpture garden for more than 50 years.
Today, several years after his death, the Veijo Rönkkönen Sculpture Garden remains intact and draws more than 25,000 visitors annually. Tourists love to explore the property’s eerie landscape.
There, you can find concrete figures perching along dirt roads, balance in yoga poses, and stand frozen in dark corners.
The effect is both mysterious and intriguing. All of the sculptures look like they might spring to life and shake off their leaves at any given moment.
Among the first sculptures visitors notice is a nun, a shirtless main in traditional Finnish dress, a woman wearing a jaunty hat, and a little boy in overalls. There is also a sculpture resembling Abe Lincoln.
The majority of the statues perform a variety of activities. And the most interesting are the artist’s self-portraits.
He depicts himself in various yoga poses. They might not look particularly lifelike, but they possess an otherworldly and sinister quality. The sculptures have blank, sunken eyes, skeletal body proportions, ghoulish grins, and in some cases, they have real human teeth. It is still a mystery where the artist found the real teeth from.
His cast of characters represent a vast range of cultures, religions, and rituals. Critics say that the sculptures represent his exploration of self, as well as his fascination with the outside world. But he liked to experience the world at a distance.
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