Water

an exhibit of contemporary art

Water explores our world’s most essential natural resource as a source of survival, life, and livelihoods. Nineteen contemporary artists with Nordic 5 Arts have created works that respond to the theme of water. Some artists reflect on immigrant journeys by ship or plane across the Atlantic Ocean. Others reflect on the state of water in the face of climate change and the relationship between the Nordic countries and water. 

Nordic 5 Arts was founded by Kati Casida in 1993. Nordic 5 Arts is an international organization of professional artists based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nordic 5 Arts presents a unique Nordic/Scandinavian expression in the visual arts and contributes to the diversity of the arts in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. The organization also promotes ties with contemporary Nordic arts, culture, and design. Nordic 5 Arts is composed of professional artists, primarily of Nordic/Scandinavian descent and artists born in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Nordic 5 Arts is open to all artists and supporters of the arts with a connection to, or appreciation of, Nordic expression in the arts.

The exhibit is sponsored by Decorah Bank & Trust, Marilyn and Julien Hansen, and Jeff and Marilyn Roverud.

This exhibit will be on view at Vesterheim when the museum reopens.

Check back for information about upcoming online exhibit presentations and events, and follow Vesterheim on Facebook and YouTube.

Joan Ross painting
Joan Ross painting

Joan Stuart Ross

Oyster Estuary I and II

Encaustic on Wood Panel
2020

Statement

My oyster shell paintings are inspired by the luminous oyster shells and the stories-high oyster shell stacks that proliferate ​on the shores of Willapa Bay, in Nahcotta, a village on ​Washington state’s​ Long Beach Peninsula. ​Oysters are especially sensitive to water quality, and Willapa​ Bay is the ​largest pristine estuary in the country. ​These paintings are infused with​ long-time painting interests of mine: spatial depth, a composition that fills the space, and the colorful, painterly quality of​ ​linear stroke​s​ and brush-laden mark​s​. These essential elements are connected to fluidity of technique and of ​the iconic image of the mysterious oyster shell.

Bio

Joan Stuart Ross’s Swedish ancestors were tailors who settled in Boston in 1880 and 1900. She studied at Boston Latin School, and at Connecticut College she majored in Art and Theology and worked for civil rights and against nuclear proliferation. In Josef Albers’ color class at Yale, Ross gained insight about color dynamics that set her life’s passion. She moved to Seattle in 1968, where she have exhibited her artwork and taught art in local and regional schools and colleges. Her studios are at BallardWorks in Seattle, and in the village of Nahcotta, on the Washington coast.

Pamela Fingado painting

Pam Fingado

Migration

Mixed Media on Panel
2018

Statement

MIGRATION: movement from one part of something to another. Water is in constant flow, moving between one space and another. This work was painted while in meditation. I wanted to capture the contrasting feelings of floating and the frightening surge of energy of being pulled along by an unseen force.

Here, water is a metaphor for emotional spirit.

The movement of energy and the floating relaxing feeling of water in motion is inherently what this piece is about. The expression of being moved along by another force such as the power of water can be exhilarating, as well as frightening.

Bio

Pam Fingado is a native Californian born in San Francisco, living in the San Francisco East Bay. She studied art at the California College of Arts in Oakland and at California State University East Bay. She is a retired California teacher. Her art has been exhibited for over thirty years in Florence, Italy; Texas; Washington; and the East Coast. She is the owner of Fingado Art Services, Coaching and Consulting For a Creative Life.

Ellen Faris painting.

Ellen Håkensen Faris

A Path in the Ice

Acrylic on Canvas
2013

Statement

I love the sea in Southern Norway! It amazes me how it changes with the seasons. In the summer, people enjoy swimming, boating, and other water sports. The season is short, but the days are long and bright! Then the fall and winter set in. The sea freezes over, the days are short, but that does not stop the working boats and ships!

Here I captured a wooden fishing boat that did not get stopped by the ice. It made a path in the ice, and went back home in the tracks it made going out. You know nothing stops a Norwegian!

Bio

“Colors are good for the soul” is the guiding inspiration behind the work of artist Ellen Håkensen Faris, a native of Norway. Through painting she is able to freely express her love of the full color spectrum without restriction. Ellen studied art and graphic design at California College of the Arts, Academy of Arts University, and UC Berkeley Extension. She operated her own graphic design studio, Design Plus, in the San Francisco Bay Area for over thirty years. Ellen is now retired from her graphic design work and her focus is on her painting. Ellen signs her work with a dot!

Custom Link BBarbara Stevens Strauss artwork

Barbara Stevens Strauss

Jeweled Bay

Paper Collage
2019

Statement

This paper collage suggests a halcyon vision of the sparkling new life that my ancestors’ voyage might bring them to here in this country. Its dreamlike quality is conveyed by the intense colors and playfulness of natural forms. Water is a source of joy and pleasure; Jeweled Bay is a glimpse of an imagined landscape focusing on that element.

Bio

Barbara Stevens Strauss grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, the eldest of five children. Her grandmother and grandfather were Danish, moving to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan in the early 1900s. She first received formal studio training as an undergraduate with Abstract Expressionist Vera Klement at the University of Chicago. While living in Florida, creating ceramic sculpture using the Raku method of firing became a consuming interest. After relocating to Oakland in 2003, her sculptural works have been accepted to juried venues across California, most recently at the Kellogg Gallery in Pomona. The artist studied with Susannah Israel, and has been strongly influenced by Paul Soldner and Peter Voulkos. Recent work has utilized iron oxide, glass fragments and Japanese glazes in an expanding repertoire of wall pieces and non-functional forms.

Barbara Stevens Strauss

Luv (Windward)

Ceramic
2018

Statement

This Raku-fired ceramic work is full of motion, recalling the forward thrust of a ship pitched forward in stormy weather. I wanted to express the great effort, both emotional and physical, of crossing the Atlantic that my Danish and Swedish ancestors made in coming to America. Without all of their courage in leaving behind all that they knew and loved, I would not have had the opportunity to create this work in the precise way it manifested in this sculptural form.

Bio

Barbara Stevens Strauss grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, the eldest of five children. Her grandmother and grandfather were Danish, moving to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan in the early 1900s. She first received formal studio training as an undergraduate with Abstract Expressionist Vera Klement at the University of Chicago. While living in Florida, creating ceramic sculpture using the Raku method of firing became a consuming interest. After relocating to Oakland in 2003, her sculptural works have been accepted to juried venues across California, most recently at the Kellogg Gallery in Pomona. The artist studied with Susannah Israel, and has been strongly influenced by Paul Soldner and Peter Voulkos. Recent work has utilized iron oxide, glass fragments and Japanese glazes in an expanding repertoire of wall pieces and non-functional forms.

Ulla de Larios

Crossing 11 and 12

Handwoven Linen
2005

Statement

I grew up on the west coast of Sweden, close to the ocean that impacted our lives with its storms and winds and salt spray during the winter and its pleasure during the summer. As immigrants, this ocean and other waters needed to be crossed to be able to reach the new country. My piece shows the crossing through and over these waters. The small, barely visible men in the center are the immigrants on their trip, in between the shores that some will reach and others not.

Bio

Ulla de Larios was born and raised in Sweden. She immigrated to the United States after studies in Math and Physics at Lunds Universitet. After moving to California, she received a BFA from San Francisco Art Institute in Painting in 1990 and an MFA in Textiles from San Francisco State University in 2005. Ulla’s grandmother taught her to weave when she was a young teenager. Her art covers many different textile practices: spinning, dyeing, knitting, sewing, weaving, and even ply-splitting. Weaving is her favorite because of its limitless possibilities. She now resides in Berkeley, CA and shows her work widely.

Helene Sobol artwork

Helene Sobol

Glacier Melt #2

Photograph on Canvas
2005

Statement

I photographed the Briksdal Glacier on the west coast of Norway during the first decade of the 21st century when awareness of global warming was becoming more widespread. Like other glaciers and ice-covered landmasses throughout the world, Briksdalsbreen has continued to melt at a more rapid pace during the past decade. “Glacier Melt 2” is my artistic statement about the fragility of the earth and the impact of climate change.

Bio

Helene Sobol was born and grew up in Norway and has resided in San Francisco since 1974. She began her studies at the University of Oslo, Norway, and received her B.A. in Art History from UC Berkeley. She also took photography classes and learned darkroom techniques. In 1979, she opened Images of the North, a gallery specializing in Inuit (Eskimo) art in San Francisco, retiring in 2004 to pursue her longtime interest in photography. In 2004, she introduced “The Bark Series”, a collection of close-ups of tree bark, at the Botanical Garden Library in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Two years later, she presented “Memories and Moods – Norway Revisited” at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle. As a member of San Francisco Women Artists (SFWA) and Nordic 5 Arts, her work is included on a regular basis in their juried exhibitions.

Maj-Britt Hilstrom artwork

Maj-Britt Hilstrom

MIZU

Woodcut and Mixed Media on Japanese Textile
2020

Statement

My work concerns water and its protection. There is no “new” water. The life source we are drinking today is billions of years old. Our bodies are over seventy percent water. The Chinese word for water also means power. Wars have been fought over the rights to this liquid. Overfishing and pollution have resulted in diminishing species and numbers of this important food source. Hook-and-line fishing has escalated to large nets and now to dynamiting of entire habitats. We cannot ignore civilization’s determination to pollute and desecrate water.

Bio

Born in Chicago to Swedish immigrant parents, Maj-Britt Hilstrom graduated from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. Her degree there was supplemented by study at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Yoshida Hanga Academy Tokyo, and the Marble and Art Institute in Pietrasanta, Italy. She is the founder/director of the Blue Bay Press, a member of the Pacific Rim Sculptors Group, the California Society of Printmakers and Nordic 5 Arts. Her work is in collections across the United States and has been exhibited around the world.

Debra Jewell photograph

Debra Jewell

Alluvia 1

Trace Monotype with Chine Collé
2016

Statement

Alluvia (Latin, alluvius, “to wash against”), the soil deposited by flowing water in flood plains, river beds, and estuaries, was chosen for this trace monotype – with its ancient patterns signifying life and renewal, or its distant remnants in the dry river bed, or formerly fertile plain. Etched in clay, silt, and sand, alluvial form changes with each ebb and tide, altering the landscape over time – revealing erosion and sediment in layers of past and present. It reflects a nourishing abundance of water and fertility, or its overuse in drought and depletion. It is writing our own history in time.

Bio

Landscape architect and printmaker, Debra Jewell, received her MLA degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and has practiced landscape architecture for over twenty years. Her focus as a printmaker is the experience of place in transition – in wilderness and in the urban landscape. Working with trace monotype and drypoint printmaking techniques, Jewell exhibits her work in the United States and the United Kingdom. Her work is held in private and public collections, including the Fine Art Archives of the Library of Congress. She has served on the Board of Directors of the California Society of Printmakers and Nordic 5 Arts.

Marc Ellen Hamel

Lake Ygden

Oil on Paper on Panel
2019

Statement

This painting recalls my visit to the small lake located on the farm where my maternal grandmother was born in Småland, Sweden, in 1885. She immigrated to America in 1901, eventually settling in Seattle, Washington. There she met and married my Swedish-born grandfather and in 1919 they purchased a home near Lake Washington. My grandfather had also worked at the shipyards of Puget Sound in Seattle. As a girl I spent many happy hours on Lake Washington. Water has been an important element in the life and livelihood of my Swedish-American family.

Bio

Originally from Seattle, Marc Ellen Hamel moved to the Bay Area in 1972. Since high school, she has taken art classes, first at university and then in workshops through the years after. She began to pursue art seriously in 1980, attending various workshops and simply working on her craft. The interaction of color and the physical feel and look of paint motivates her work. Pushing color around, watching brushstrokes, clarifying areas, are the initial igniting acts during which an internalized landscape begins to show itself. Painting takes her to her inner worlds and to the past, present, the future.

Helen Tianian artwork

Helena Tiainen

Waves and Swirls

Acrylic on Canvas
2020

Statement

This painting pays homage to the ongoing and never-ending flow of energy. The blue dots are symbolic of the drops of water that make the mighty ocean. There is strength in numbers and everything great in this world is made from the united small and microscopic.

Bio

Helena Tiainen was born and raised in Helsinki, Finland, a land of lakes and green gold, and the midnight sun. In August 1979, Helena relocated to San Francisco, California, to attend the San Francisco Art Institute, where she earned her BFA in 1982. The peculiar, beautiful, and mystical realms in this world and the universe are a great muse to her. Interconnectedness of all life plays major roles in her paintings, drawings, and digitally enhanced mixed media works. She lives in Berkeley, California.

Kristin Lindseth sculpture

Kristin Lindseth

Caught Between Worlds

Bronze
2017

Statement

Since 2010, I have focused my artistic attention on the global refugee crisis, beginning with the Haitian earthquake and tsunami of 2010 and becoming intensely involved by 2015 with the Syrian refugee crisis. People are losing their lives at sea again and the levels of human displacement have reached 68 million.

The sea crossing is also the route my ancestors took when they immigrated to America. These uprooted boats, villages, and homes are also metaphors for the ways in which we all face uncertainties in life; for all of the ways in which we can find ourselves uprooted, suspended without a place to rest, and facing a terrifying unknown whether it be in physical or psychological realms.

Bio

Kristin Lindseth is known for her intensely-felt sculptures of the interior human landscape. An internationally exhibiting sculptor, printmaker and educator, Lindseth lives and works in the San Francisco South Bay area, and her work has been represented in over 100 exhibitions regionally, nationally, and internationally. Her bronze sculptures and intaglio printmaking are found in private collections all over the world. Her sculptures are all cast bronze figurative and symbolic works, and are each one of a kind. She has done her own casting for the past twenty years which allows for freedom to experiment and evolve.

Emma Lundren carving

Emma Lundgren

The Gaze, Shimmer, Flora

Oil on Panel
2016

Statement

Drawing inspiration from my Scandinavian heritage and homeland, these pieces are influenced by the craft of carving your own wooden “kåsa,” a traditional drinking cup to last a lifetime for your journeys across the natural environment. The Swarovski crystals glimmer momentarily, capturing nature’s rich spectrum of colors from epic northern lights, to heavenly stars and vivid flowers. The soft and soothing reflections slowly change throughout the day from energetic to calm, just like the shimmering light of water in motion.

Bio

Emma Lundgren presents Scandinavian-inspired color and material combinations that explore a broad cultural context. Emma’s signature style, a futuristic folk-inspired aesthetic and passionate storytelling, raises awareness of meaningful topics. Emma expresses her material, color, and craft knowledge through physical and digital forms, combining the customary and the extraordinary to showcase a new generation of Nordic craft.

Emma is a graduate of Central St. Martins and Royal College of Art. Her work has been exhibited in Stockholm, New York, London, Tokyo, Paris, and San Francisco, gaining her international media attention and a Fellowship at the Royal Society of the Arts.

Jenny Wantuch artwork

Jenny Wantuch

Fall in Violet

Oil on Panel
2016

Statement

My painting titled “Fall in Violet” was created from my trip to Northern Sweden (Jämtland) in the early autumn. I was interested in expressing the contrast between warm and cool colors and the abstract reflections. I work from life and direct observation. I use my plein air paintings, painted outdoors on site, as reference for larger studio paintings. I chose the natural landscape as a vehicle for my expression of healing and hope. I am interested in the non-verbal visual poetry and mystery that a landscape in autumn evokes, and it is a theme that I frequently revisit.

Bio

Jenny was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden. With a degree in Chemistry, and experience working as an environmental engineer, she now approaches her interest for our natural  environment through her artwork. Jenny is a painter who draws inspiration from nature in

California and Sweden, where she lives part of the year and also from her worldwide travels. Her paintings reflect her response from direct observation. Jenny is a full-time artist, working from her studio at Hunters Point Shipyards in San Francisco. Her work has private collectors in the U.S. and Europe.

Charlotta Maria Hauksdottir artwork

Charlotta María Hauksdóttir

Impression VII

Archival Ink Jet Print, Hand-Cut and Layered with Mixed Media
2019

Statement

“Impression VII” is composed of a photographic print in which three landscape images have been merged in one. The print is then hand cut in a fingerprint pattern and layered with mixed media, creating a one of a kind sculptural artwork. By utilizing the texture of the human fingerprint, the work speaks to our individual responsibility for our impressions upon nature.

Bio

Charlotta María Hauksdóttir is an Icelandic artist, residing in California, and working primarily in photography. Her work centers around the unique connection one has to places and moments in time, and how memories embody and elevate those connections. Charlotta graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute with an MFA in Photography in 2004, and previously received a BA in Photography from the Istituto Europeo di Design in Rome, in 1997. Her award-winning work has been exhibited widely and published in numerous books and magazines. Her work can be found in public and private collections all over the world.

Olivia Eielson artwork

Olivia Eielson

The Returning Tide

Oil on Canvas
2019

Statement

In “The Returning Tide” I wanted to capture the power and beauty of ocean waves. At first the painting may seem a look at pure raw nature. Yet, unbelievably, we have managed to foul even the ocean, which I found heartbreaking. The immediate feeling of the waves, here, does dominate; but if you look closely, you will find a shattered tower and bits and pieces of human junk. The waves do have power, yes; but it seems that our powers may, tragically, be greater.

Bio

My technical art education began with portrait painter Morton Sacks, in Boston. Later I attended Oskar Kokoschka’s Schule des Sehens in Salzburg, Austria, where the emphasis was on seeing – and painting – without preconceptions or “tricks.” For many years now my work has been mostly environmentally-themed; I fear that we are on a catastrophic path of overpopulation and overconsumption. My aim is to provide enough visual pleasure that the viewer will want to look further, and see the disconcerting clues as to what we, as a society, are doing.

Pernilla Persson artwork
Pernilla Persson artwork

Pernilla Persson

Beneath Water IV; Wonderland IV

Photographs
2005

Statement

Water, a solvent, is essential to all living organisms on earth. Fascinated by dependence and survival, I brought a camera to the outdoors. Together with light and color, water transforms reality and co-creates drama as night falls. It reflects like a translucent mirror, and makes life more dissolved and mysterious. My intention was to explore new thought forms with experimental film processing, to better my communications skills through the lens. Hours were spent in the darkroom printing playfully with vivid color wheels, and I found great joy expressing myself through color, abstraction, and motion.

Bio

Pernilla’s fondest memories growing up were of visiting the shores, lakes, and forests surrounding her house in Sweden. Nature had an impact on her as a child and became her canvas, and helped her discover her voice. She decided to move to Boston in 1998 to study photography. She wanted to deepen her knowledge and feed her curiosity about art, connection, and communication. Today, she chooses to use the fabric of nature as well as the human body as her bricks and mortar, while pushing her own boundaries and beliefs.

Diane Rusnak painting

Diane Rusnak

Rainbow Sea

Acrylic on Canvas
2011

Statement

I am a colorist who selects colors intuitively, painting with many layers of acrylic glazes (color stretched in transparent medium) to achieve an effect that brings additional richness and depth. Important are the flow and rhythm of all forms making visible the life energy between and within every space. My many water paintings originate in dreams of water long ago, originally nightmares of drowning. In painting, they are transformed into beautiful healing images; a harmony of all shapes and colors.

Bio

Diane Rusnak is a California Bay Area artist showing locally, nationally, and internationally since 1970.  She grew up in the countryside of northeast Ohio and went to Ohio State University.  She was trained as an Abstract expressionist in oil painting and traveled west in the 1960s, settling in Berkeley. She moved out of abstract painting and into symbolism and dream art in acrylics in the 1970s. The feminist art movement was pivotal in her life. She’s been in over 150 shows and 40 publications. She retired from art teaching in community colleges and now has her new Studio Sisu in her home. Her grandparents were Finnish and she has visited that country twice.

Kati Casida sculpture

Kati Casida

Sculpture in Yellow

Metal
2019

Statement

My sculptures imply motion, a continuous passage through space. “Thrust, undulation, rhythm, inside, outside, and around” are all words I use to describe my work and the creative process. I begin with paper or strips of metal, cutting and folding, making small models to explore on an intimate scale how form relates to space. I’m influenced by images in the landscape and how movement changes these images. Rhythms of various Greek and Cypriot dances and my study of modern dance patterns help me to realize how I want to cut through space with my materials and colors. The seasons, wind, snow, and rushing waterfalls of Norway, the land of my great-grandparents, are also reflected in my work.

Bio

Kati Casida was born in Viroqua, a Norwegian farming community in Wisconsin. Her great-grandparents emmigrated from Luster, Sognefjord, and Gyland near Flekkefjord. As a child, she lived in the log cabin her great-grandfather had built on his farm when he arrived from Norway. Growing up isolated on a remote farm, Casida started making drawings in the yard with the use of a stick at the age of three. With the encouragement of her parents, she developed her talent on the farm and later when her family moved to La Crosse, WI. She received her B.S. in Art Education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Casida was an Artist-in-Residence at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Athenée Hydra, Greece, and at the Edvard Munch Studio in Ekely, Norway. In 1964, she and her husband John Casida moved to Berkeley, California. She founded Nordic 5 Arts, an organization for artists of Nordic heritage in the San Francisco Bay Area, in 1993.

Tracey Benson

After the Fires

Film
2020

Statement

“After the Fires” is a video installation about The Murrumbidgee River – the flow after the catastrophic fires in the summers of 2019-2020. The audio work is a spontaneous composition by sound artist and healer Dian Booth, recorded at SCANZ CBR in 2017. Video footage and editing by Tracey M. Benson, filmed at Uriarra Crossing in January 2020 and Ginninderry March 2020 after the rain. This work builds on the ongoing project “Words for Water” initiated in 2013. “After the Fires” explores the relationship of the river focusing on how it connects people and places, offering a meditation on the importance of respecting the life of the river. The Murrumbidgee connects Canberra to the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia. It is the third largest inland river system in the world and the health of this river system is critical to the wellbeing of communities, both human and non-human.

Bio

Tracey M. Benson is an artist and researcher based in Canberra, Australia. With an interest in ubiquitous technologies, user research, and active audience participation, her work is focused on ecological balance, awareness, and wellbeing. She explores a range of media including walking, video, web, open data, photography, and augmented reality, often collaborating with cultural knowledge keepers, scientists, and historians. Her work has been featured in many international and national media festivals since 1996. Tracey is currently an adjunct researcher at the Institute of Applied Ecology and Centre for Creative and Cultural Research at University of Canberra and visiting researcher at the More than Human Lab at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand. Her most recent work was featured as part of the UK-based Urban Trees Festival.

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