In summer's heat, art from the Arctic arrives
Greenwich Arts Council welcomes work from trio of Swedish artists
Published 1:50 pm, Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Pointing out the paintings, sculptures and ceramics that make up "Arctic Women and their Art," a show Gibbons helped organize, she did more than share her observations on the technique and skill of the featured artists. She also expressed her joy in finally getting a chance to share the creations of a trio of women that she calls friends.
"I wanted to show their work because I think it is incredible," said Gibbons, 56, who has lived in Greenwich since 1988. "When I see the art, I see the women."
The exhibit, which runs through Aug. 27, represents the works of three prominent Swedish artists, AnnaSofia Maag, Sofi Ruotsalainen and Nina Hedman. Gibbons met the three through her work with the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden.
Every winter, for about 20 years, a hotel of snow and ice goes up in the village of Jukkasjarvi, which is 200 kilometers above the Arctic Circle. Artists from around the world create the suites and other elements of the structure, which becomes a temporary art exhibit. It rises when the temperature drops and falls when the temperature warms in the spring.
"When I work with snow and ice, I'm kind of working together with nature," Hedman said. "But it will not last and I cannot be sure of the outcome ... it's thrilling."
After watching a television program about the hotel, Gibbons said she was inspired to make her way north about six years ago. A designer and writer, she stayed there a few months that first year by offering to do work for lodging. Every year since then, she has returned to write about the hotel and its artists.
"It has been wonderful," Gibbons said.
Two weeks ago, the four women enjoyed a night out in Greenwich, along with hundreds of others who had come out for the exhibit's opening reception. The dichotomy of featuring art from one of the world's cooler locales debuting on one of the hottest days of the year was not lost on the organizers.
More InformationNina Hedman, an artist based in Stockholm, Sweden, is one of three women whose work is on display at the Greenwich Arts Council. "Arctic Women and their Art," which runs through Aug. 27, features paintings, ceramics and sculptures from Hedman, AnnaSofia Maag and Sofi Ruotsalainen. All three have created art installations for the seasonal Ice Hotel, which rises each January in northern Sweden. But this is the first show that all three artists' works have been shown together. For Hedman, it is also the first time her work has been displayed in the United States. Hedman was in Greenwich to attend the show's opening last month, but has since returned home. I asked her a few questions via email about her art and works and her answers follow: Q: What inspires you creatively? Much of your work seems to have an element of humor and whimsy, yet its effect is quite deep. A: "I explore the world of women. It's (my) everyday life and my experiences that drive me." Q: Have you always been an artist? When did you know this was what you were going to be doing with your life? A: "The art has always been with me, though I've had several other educations and jobs. For example, I (had) been studying to be a psychologist, but I (ended those) studies (before my art studies). I've been working with digital postproduction in film and I've also been working as an art teacher, among other occupations. With art, I have been more concentrated on sculpting than painting during the last 10 years and now I know that this is what I want to do." Q: What do you like best about art, in terms of how you can communicate what you are feeling? Is there a favorite piece in the exhibit in Greenwich? A: "I love to work with the human body as a form and I always want to tell a story in my pictures. My favorite piece now is the "Coffee Mudra." I believe she has a lot to say ;)"
"In this summer of heat, it does bring in a breath of fresh air," Gibbons said.
Recalling opening night, Hedman, who lives in Stockholm, Sweden, said it was great fun and that she was pleased that so many people came out. It is the first time her work has been on display in the United States, though, like the others, her work has been shown throughout Europe and Asia.
The exhibit also marks the first time the Swedish artists (and friends) have displayed together.
"They did a fantastic job putting it up," said Maag, who has extended her visit in the United States, so as to get a chance to visit her sister in Virginia. She planned to visit a few more sites, such as New York City, before heading back to her home and studio in Malmberget, Sweden.
"They marry well," Maag said of the works.
There is whimsy, from the multiple pieces that make up Hedman's "Killer Snails," to the rich depth created by a small pool of green glaze in one of Maag's ceramic pieces, "Hole." Among Ruotsalainen's works are a series of panels and canvases, "Bodyscapes," that celebrate the female form, which serve as a bookend to the nudes that hang on the walls across from the gallery's foyer.
"These are all very dynamic artists," said Paul Master-Karnik, executive director of the arts council. "We were very interested in their range of art. And, it is fascinating to see the diversity of the works. Yet, they came together nicely as an exhibit."
Over her career, Maag also has worked in various media, though ceramics has become her primary means of expression. For one thing, it tends to last a lot longer than the temporary art suites she creates for the hotel.
"But, in a way, clay also is a very earthly material, like ice and snow," she said, adding that it takes another element to give ceramics their longevity -- fire. Other materials used in some of the show's other pieces also reflect material that is distinct to the artists' homeland, such as the mineral magnetite, an ore which is mined in northern Sweden. Even some of Ruotsalainen's canvases have a history.
Gibbons said that Ruotsalinen found the material in her village, where it mostly was used to cover firewood. As such, small areas where repairs were once made are visible, as is its unique color
That the show combines elemental beauty and whimsical charm makes Gibbons happy, she said, since it so captures the spirit of the women who created the art.
When asked whether she had a favorite, Gibbons looked around.
"If I had to pick one," she said, pausing. "I just don't know."
"I'm just so excited to have it," she said, smiling. "I was just so excited to have them here."
The Greenwich Arts Council is at 299 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich. "Arctic Women and their Art" runs through Aug. 27 at the council's Bendheim Gallery. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; noon to 4 p.m., Saturday. For more information, visit www.greenwicharts.org or call 203-862-6750.