LINDSBORG — New exhibitions will open Sunday, Aug. 25, at the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery, 401 North First Street in Lindsborg. They include Art for All: The Swedish Experience in Mid-America that features works by pioneering Swedish-American artists; paintings by Lindsborg resident Sally Johnson, mixed-media works by Roberta Eichenberg of Emporia; a traveling exhibition of woodcarvings from the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis; and a show of woodcarvings by Lindsborg area artists. The opening reception will be held from 2-4 p.m. on Aug. 25, with exhibition talks beginning at 2:30 p.m. The shows continue through Hyllningsfest and conclude on Oct. 20.
Art for All is an exhibition featuring 28 pioneering Swedish-American artists and more than 70 works of art, including paintings and sculpture. The show was organized in collaboration with the Hillstrom Museum of Art at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., and is supported by grants from the Swedish Council of America, a national non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Swedish heritage. The exhibition will travel to the Hillstrom Museum and Chicago’s Swedish American Museum.
The story of the spread of democratic ideals with a flourishing of arts and culture in America’s central prairie lands is traced from the young radicals who broke with the elite Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm in the 1880s. They banded together to guide Sweden’s culture and politics in a new, egalitarian direction and founded the collective Artists League in 1886. Several artists who studied with the League painters and sculptors, absorbing the philosophies of “art for everyone,” later immigrated to America to forge new career paths, including Birger Sandzén, Carl (Gustafson) Lotave, Arvid Nyholm, and Bessie Helström. Other immigrant Swedes arrived to settle in the Midwest – such as Olof Grafström, Charles Hallberg, Oscar Jacobson, B.J.O. Nordfeldt, and Elof Wedin – and participated in the founding of exhibition annuals and establishing art collections in schools and libraries in their new communities of Lindsborg, Chicago, Ill., and Minneapolis, Minn.
Well-established artist and Bethany College graduate Sally Johnson has been painting and exhibiting professionally for over 50 years. For her show, Quiet Places, Real and Imagined, she continues her work with acrylic paints and incorporates subject matter varying from realistic to magical realism – utilizing the function of memory, imagination, and intuition. She has exhibited and won awards in numerous Kansas and national shows, and had a retrospective at the Sandzén Gallery in 2005.
Roberta Eichenberg’s exhibition Variable Threads explores the idea that everything is connected. Eichenberg, who serves as chair of the art department at Emporia State University, writes that for the exhibition she is “attempting to organize seemingly disparate elements and bring ideas together to provide order to her chaotic world. Ninety-five percent of the materials used to make the work for the exhibition were recycled or repurposed. I searched for and collected what some might consider the dross of our environment.” The objects created have a minimalist feel, but also showcase exemplary design.
The Stories They Told has been loaned to the Gallery from the Swedish American Institute in Minneapolis, Minn. It presents the work of six of the most recognized and collected Swedish flat-plane figure carvers of the 20th century, as well as two contemporary American artists practicing today. Scandinavian flat-plane wood carving is a style of figure carving done by hand with small knives. The completed figures are characterized by a surface texture of flat-planes that is the result of the chipping away of the wood.
The exhibition attempts to “unlock” the narratives carved into the figures, in providing a closer look into the social and societal factors that may have influenced each artist’s work. The exhibition is a Lindsborg Sesquicentennial event and was made possible by a grant from the Smoky Valley Community Foundation, along with sponsorship support by Lindsborg Vacation Rentals.
The Stories Continue builds on the carving legacies left by Lindsborg artists Anton Pearson, John Altenborg, and Norman Malm. Curated by contemporary carver John Presley, it demonstrates the continued interest and practice of the carving traditions brought to the Smoky Valley, and also illustrates how untrained people have developed their abilities along the lines established by their Lindsborg predecessors. Carvers in the exhibition include Marv Anderson, Jennifer Ebling, Bruce Harding, Barb Hoffman, Mark Kozubowski, Jim Malm, Leland Nelson, John Palmquist, and John Presley.
The Sandzén Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday. The Gallery is closed on Mondays. Admission is free, with donations appreciated. Docent tours for groups are available by two-week advance appointment. For more information about Birger Sandzén and the Sandzén Gallery visit www.sandzen.org or call 785-227-2220.