Brooklyn/Norway: A visual interpretation

Photo: Carl Hedlund  Krumkaker and hjertevaffler face off in Corrine Hall’s “Norwegian Food Fight,” evoking memories of friendly arguments. Whose meatballs are better, your mom’s or my mom’s?

Photo: Carl Hedlund
Krumkaker and hjertevaffler face off in Corrine Hall’s “Norwegian Food Fight,” evoking memories of friendly arguments. Whose meatballs are better, your mom’s or my mom’s?

Lagertha Aslaug
Brooklyn, N.Y.

On Wednesday, April 1, 2015, the exhibit, “Brooklyn/Norway: A Visual Interpretation,” opened at the Danish Athletic Club. It is the first known exhibit that the Danish Club has held in its over 120-year history.

This exhibit focused on the perceptions locals from Brooklyn and Norway have about the other, whether realistic, mythological, or somewhere in between. Both places serve as symbols of exotica, but for different reasons. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines exotica as “things excitingly different or unusual.” Today, Brooklyn epitomizes hip or cool worldwide, whether warranted or not. Meanwhile Norway remains a place of Caucasian exotica, unknown by most due to its geographic distance from much of the world and its small population, (a little over five million today).

Scandinavian artists who reside in the New York area were asked to submit pieces that exemplify their view of Brooklyn. Brooklyn artists were asked to submit a visual interpretation of Norway. Most of the participating artists hail from or live in Brooklyn. They worked in a variety of mediums: watercolor, oils, rosemaling (traditional Norwegian decorative painting), photography, paper, recycled materials, and pencil. The exhibit includes amazing work from children ages six to eight and one piece by a 15 year old. Two of the student artists were on hand to speak about their work. This exhibit is curated by Victoria Hofmo, President of the Scandinavian East Coast Museum.

Photo: Carl Hedlund  Ellen Willumsen Ryan’s painting brought together a number of things Brooklyn Norwegians remember fondly: foods and shops and an old Viking ship, and of course the Nordisk Tidende (predecessor of this newspaper).

Photo: Carl Hedlund
Ellen Willumsen Ryan’s painting brought together a number of things Brooklyn Norwegians remember fondly: foods and shops and an old Viking ship, and of course the Nordisk Tidende (predecessor of this newspaper).

When Lois Berseth Hedlund was asked about her thoughts about the exhibit, she said, “The Pulpit Rock piece was so interesting to me. A seven-year-old girl, Magdalena, was fascinated by a photo of the Pulpit Rock. She imagined herself on the Pulpit Rock. All of a sudden a ball she was playing with fell over the edge. ‘Oh no, my ball….’ What an imagination! You can see the little red ball falling over the edge.” Another piece she commented on was Corrine Hall’s “Norwegian Food Fight.” “Which is better? The krumkaker (cookie) or the Norwegian waffle? It evoked memories of family arguments—which cook is better? Whose meatballs are better? Your mom’s or my mom’s, etc….”

The text of the exhibit evolved from the pieces submitted. The curator’s exhibition narrative concludes with the following, “Without prodding or planning, the pieces submitted fell into themes that are universal to all humans—Outsider/In, Home/Nostalgia, Family/Culture, Environment, Culture, and Insider/Out.

“I am a Norwegian-American and proud of my roots. However, I am also a New Yorker, a Brooklynite, a Lutheran, a mother, an educator, and a human. I am delighted that this exhibit encompasses universal themes. Our spices and flavors are different, yet we rarely focus on our common bonds. That we can celebrate the unique Norwegian culture delights me. That we have more in common than not with all cultures makes me hopeful in our ever-changing community and world. Perhaps the poet Maya Angelou says it best: ‘We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.’”

This exhibit was partially funded by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs through the Brooklyn Arts Council’s re-grant program. The reception was hosted by The Scandinavian East Coast Museum and the Danish Athletic Club.

This article originally appeared in the April 24, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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