Homage to Sweden
In honor of Swedish Santa Lucia, celebrated on 13 December
Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred, killed for her faith, in 304. December 13th was also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, in the old ‘Julian’ Calendar and a pagan festival of lights in Sweden was turned into St. Lucia’s Day. According to legend, she brought food and aid to Christians hiding in Roman catacombs, wearing a candle lit wreath on her head to light her way and leave her hands free to carry as much food as possible.
To honor my Swedish heritage. . .
To honor my Swedish heritage with grandparents and great-grandparents who immigrated to American from Sweden and instilled in me a great work ethic and a love for fine art.
This photo is from my personal collection
To honor modern Swedish textile artist, Helena Hernmarck
I greatly enjoy the textile art of weaving and have personally created several pieces, including a large one exhibited at the Minnesota State Fair. I have taught textile arts using yarn to create various pieces of art and enjoy getting students excited about the visual and tactile nature of the medium. I also enjoy Impressionist paintings, especially that of Monet. And I get excited about artwork (sculpture, paintings, ceramics) that is large! No wonder I am enthralled whenever I encounter the work of Helena Hernmarck!
All photos here are from the website – hernmarck.com – of Helena Hernmarck. I encourage you to check it out and learn more about the artist, her creative and technical process, and her vast collection of weaving.
When I first discovered the work of Helena Hernmarck at an exhibit at the American Swedish Institute in 2012, I was enthralled with her work! It is literally everything I love: impressionist weaving on a large scale! Plus…she is Swedish!
“Poppies” (1978) and “Mossklyftan” (2007) cotton, linen, wool. On view at “Our Nature: The Tapestries of Helena Hernmark” an exhibition at the American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis, MN, 2012. Photo: Norman McGrath
I selected this as my main focus this week as it portrays a snowy Central Park with the New York City skyline. It reminds me of my first December living in NYC and exploring the park with my roommate and our cameras! It looked much like this! But the fact that it is hand woven makes it extra spectacular!
“Winter” (2005), wool, linen, cotton. 120″ x 187″. Collection of the Related Companies, NYC.
When I discovered this display on Hernmarck’s website, I was thrilled because I have seen it at the Mia (Minneapolis Institute of Art) as it is part of their collection! This room is a perfect place to showcase it because it is tall and impressive flanked the Corinthian columns and set off by the elaborate marble fountain. One can see the perspective against the massive wooden benches under them become small and diminutive.
“Blue Wash I” (1984) wool, linen, cotton. 236″ x 132″ Collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), Minneapolis, MN. Photo Mia
Another weaving on display at the American Swedish Institute exhibit was this huge one of giant tulips! It reminded me of the over-sized flower paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe. (Consider that it is 10 feet tall, making the tulips blossoms 5-6 feet high!)
“Spring Tulips” (2004) 120″ x 187″, wool, cotton, linen. Collection of Related Companies NYC, NY. Photo Andrew deLory
This weaving is a great example of the scale of Hernmarck’s work and shows how it can easily be interpreted as an impressionist painting–until one gets up close!
“Springtime” (1992) 154″ x 384″ wool, cotton, linen. Collection of Bank of American, Atlanta, GA. photo Brian Garsel
I love this setting for this weaving as it reminds me of the Tromp-l-oil (French for “deceive the eye”) mosaics and frescoes in ancient Pompeii and Herculaneum. It is an art technique using realistic imagery to create the optical illusion of being somewhere else, in this case, to bring the lush outdoors into a space with no natural lighting. The texture of the yarn also adds to the visual effect of this tropical rain-forest.
“Rainforest” (1971) wool, linen, cotton. 110″ x 168″ Collection of Weyerhaeuser, Location: Tacoma WA, Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Artist/Tapestry: Helena Hernmarck
Waves of water. Sails billowing in the wind! This inviting weaving looks like giant photograph, summoning the guest/viewer for a closer look! Only to discover it was created with yarn!
“Sailing” (1976) 12″ x 264″, wool, cotton, linen. Collection of Federal Reserve Bank, Boston, MA. Photo: Norman McGrath
Making falling water look like water falling is a challenge with any medium, but especially yarn! One can even see the mist rising as it hits the river below.
“Waterfall” (Ristafallet) (1986, wool, linen, cotton. 104″ x 174″. Collection of Ringhaus Nuclear power Station, Varobacka, Sweden
Sources used in this article are listed below as well as personal study as avid art history student and adjunct professor, viewing artwork in museums around the world.
- American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis, MN, 2012. Self-guided personal tour of the extensive exhibit of works of Helena Hernmarck.
- Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN. Self-guided personal tours over the span of several years viewing the works of Helena Hernmarck.
- American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis, MN, 2012. Photo: Norman McGrath
- Helena Hernmarck’s website – hernmarck.com
- Collection of Weyerhaeuser, Location: Tacoma WA, Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Artist/Tapestry: Helena Hernmarck
- Collection of Related Companies NYC, NY. Photo Andrew deLory
- Collection of Ringhaus Nuclear power Station, Varobacka, Sweden.
- Collection of Federal Reserve Bank, Boston, MA. Photo: Norman McGrath
- Collection of Bank of American, Atlanta, GA. photo Brian Garsel