I’ve been working on my webinar for Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum tomorrow (Wednesday, March 23 at 7 pm), “Valley Grove Project: Contemporary Billedvev Tapestry Weaving.” I’ve been going through all the blog entries I posted, to see if I am missing anything, and I ran across the artist statement I contributed for the grant proposal. It’s pretty formal, so I won’t be repeating it in my conversational talk. It’s nice when you look back on something you wrote and feel you captured your feelings well.
Artist Statement, 2020. Medieval Norwegian tapestries told stories. In the 16th and 17th centuries, they came mostly from the Bible— instructional parables meant to illustrate moral lessons. During the resurgence of interest in tapestry during the National Romantic period of the late 1800s and early 1900s, folk tales were popular motifs.
The Valley Grove tapestries will tell a story in a set of four symbol-filled tableaus. They will pay homage to an enduring art form, one with deep ties to Norway.
Weaving a tapestry is slow work, building the images that come together into whole cloth. I hope to create a “whole cloth” Valley Grove church story, bringing together the plants, animals, the land, immigrants, and the churches they built.
These tapestries will be linked to a sacred place. They will hang in a historical church, but it is more than worshiping with a pastor that makes a place sacred. The land, with its particular form and geology, the animals supported in the landscape, the common struggle of people in the surrounding communities to build farms and lives and families—all these create a wider “sacred space” to honor in these tapestries. I hope these pieces will spark a sense of community among those whose families are from the church and from the surrounding region.
In Medieval Norwegian churches, tapestries were valued objects, adding color and warmth to places where community members came together. I have a fantasy that someone who saw a tapestry in a church in Hallingdal or Valdres made the difficult decision to travel across the ocean and found herself in Minnesota. Generations later, her great-great grandchild might see the new tapestries—a thread travels through time.
You can sign up here, or don’t worry about it–Vesterheim staff will be adding it to their YouTube site in the future. Valley Grove Project: Contemporary Billedvev Tapestry Weaving