This summer I enjoyed a too-short visit with my friend Ingebjørg Monsen from Bergen. Afterwards she stayed with our friend Jan Mostrom, and the two stopped in to Norway House. Weaving alert! Artworks owned by St. Olaf College were being installed in the gallery, and it was hard to miss the large graphic tapestry that was placed on the wall right inside the glass doors. Ingebjørg didn’t get the artist’s name, and I’m happy she sent me over to figure it out. It was woven by Sidsel Calmeyer Karlsen, and was a gift of the government of Norway on the occasion of St. Olaf College’s Centennial in 1974.
My photo doesn’t pay justice to the piece. The narrow lines of shiny white weft were beautifully placed, a perfect foil to the rest of the bold and wooly weft. Texture is a captivating element of the design.
By chance, Sidsel Calmeyer Karlsen also wove one of my favorite contemporary Norwegian tapestries, which I printed and saved in a notebook many years ago. I love the colors and patterning of the ocean and trees in “Robinson finner sin øy, men hvor er Fredag?” (Robinson finds his island, but where is Friday?, 1989). (I read online that it is now at Myklerud School as part of Norway’s public art program–perhaps I should go see it sometime.)
When I saw Karlsen’s tapestry in my notebook this fall, I thought of a medieval Norwegian tapestry owned by the Norwegian Nasjonalgalleriet, the “Sandsvær-antependiet.” It also has a face at the bottom, the blue face of the devil.
Was the face of Friday like the face of the devil? Nope! Not as close as I thought. But both pop out in unexpected colors.