The 25 compelling pieces are amazing in their diversity of technique and outstanding craftsmanship. It’s a Noah’s Ark of fiber. If we had thought, “Let’s try to get tapestry and knitting and felting and digital printing and embroidery and rug weaving and quilting and silk fabric and collage and beading and a woven coverlet,” that would have been ridiculous. But that’s what happened. Oh, and how about a re-imagination of the Baldishol arch in PVC pipe covered in swimsuit fabric? It’s coming!
Here are some more scenes from the morning of unpacking. Look at the gorgeous blue of Mary Lawson’s coat; there is a lot of beautiful blue in the exhibit as a whole. And her wonderful hand-woven bands mimic the wave-like Baldishol border. Claire unveils Shawn Cassiman’s coverlet. The richness of the colors leaps out. Amy Ropple’s beaded Baldishol birds are peeking from the packaging. In a detail of Toni Easterman’s collage is a horse–one of several in the show.
Norway House staff and curator Max Stevenson deserve so much credit for their enthusiasm and support throughout this process. It is not easy for a nonprofit to totally pivot to virtual programming and fight for their survival during a never-anticipated world pandemic. And remember how we had all the donations and planning done to hold a conference with speakers from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland? Everything was so well-planned, down to the food and drink at the exhibit opening, and a special dinner for the artists the night before. Poof!
For some artists still at work on their pieces, the pandemic created a pivot in their intent and execution. Sally Reckert’s piece switched from a focus on climate change to a wider angst in “Children March into an Unknown Future.” Amy Ropple’s collaged and beaded piece, focusing on pandemics and plague, includes the words, “Wash your hands.”
The horrific murder of George Floyd initiated another round of uncertainty and concern. I never thought I would receive an email like this report from Max. “I wanted to let you know I safely received Toni Easterson’s textile today. I haven’t opened it, but the package seems in good condition. I was worried about deliveries today after seeing post office vehicles being burned yesterday.”
Norway House is part of the vibrant urban fabric of our city, and they sent an email quickly, noting, “The tragic and unwarranted killing of George Floyd just 20 blocks from Norway House has left deep scars in our neighborhood and in homes across the Twin Cities. And now, the nation has joined Minneapolis in days of civil unrest as we grieve our losses and reflect on our privileges. Norway House stands in solidarity with our community around the world in search of answers, justice, and eventually peace.”
AND YET, THE SHOW IS COMING
We are still scrambling for the end goal. Norway House staff have been overwhelmed with work for their (this year, online) gala last week, which was quite successful.
The good news is that while Norway House will not open formally until September 1, visitors will be welcomed to the Baldishol exhibit. You need to make a reservation via their website (up SOON) for a 45-minute time slot. Only six visitors will be allowed in the gallery at one time, and masks are required. Given the spacious rectangular form of the gallery space, that seems safe and super pleasant. I’m hoping it will be operational and open to visitors by this Friday, the original “real” opening. By Friday we will also have a short video up on the Norway House site (and the Norwegian Textile Letter site) of the show in place.
In another week a full virtual exhibit will be up on the Norway House site, with photos of the individual pieces, linked to a description and bio of each artist.
This will be the best virtual exhibit ever, and you are lucky if you can visit in person. Watch for details in the next few days. Later, there will be a catalog you can order, too–and a t-shirt! In the meantime, read about many of the pieces as they were under development on the exhibit site.
A FINAL NOTE
One of the artists, Laurie Bushbaum, is also an ordained pastor. As I saw the coat she made today, and as I recently read through her description of the symbols and text it includes, I thought it was a bit miraculous that she is part of our Baldishol exhibit community right now, with words of comfort and hope. As we all strive to use our hearts and hands and time and money to solve immense issues of racial justice, she offers her work as a prayer. (Read more about her coat here.)
My prayer is that we now plant a garden that rises both for the earth and for humanity. Before it is too late, the “greening power of the Earth, spoken of by 14th Century mystic Julian of Norwich must rise through our hands. Here in the City of Minneapolis and everywhere, old systems must die. Justice must rise and bloom for people of color. Only then will we all be free in paradise. Laurie Bushbaum, June 2020