Finding home, over and over
Lois Tønnessen Andersen explores her heritage through painting
Most of us like to wander from whence we came, but that does not mean we stop yearning to return or ever stop carrying “home” with us, wherever we tread and however long we stay away.
Case in point, just look at Dorothy who cannot stop thinking about the flat plains of Kansas, even while she is in the dazzling Emerald City. The power of home has been explored in various genres: in films, like The Wizard of Oz; in literature from the ancient classic the Odyssey to the contemporary Ways of Going Home by Chilean author Alejandro Zambra; in music with too many songs to count; and through the visual arts.
Lois Tønnessen Andersen’s newest series of paintings, “Finding Home”—Å finne hjem,” explores where and what home is. She is in the process of looking for a venue to display her art, but in the meantime you can enjoy it in context of this article or peruse it on her website.
“Finding Home” is a great theme to explore, because it touches every one of us, and at the same time is unique to each of us. When you combine that with a thoughtful and talented artist, wonderful images and insights emerge. Andersen, like many of us, identifies with many different homes in terms of place.
Andersen was born and raised in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, N.Y., (she has written and illustrated a children’s book, Badda’s Buddy, that speaks to this part of her life), but for the last 33 years, she has resided in Concord, Mass. But, as many from the area of her origin, Bay Ridge, she has deep roots in Norway, specifically in Farsund, the home of her father in Agder county on the southwest coast.
With their vibrant colors and contemplative mood, the artist’s images speak for themselves. Selected here are five to share Andersen’s story of “Finding Home” with you.
The subtle ability of light to transform all is captured in this painting. It is no exaggeration of what one actually sees and feels in Norway, especially during their long summer days, as saturated color seeps into every nook and cranny, when the sun slowly sinks.
Although the painting is static, you can feel the cloak of darkness moving in. It brings to mind the debate over whether nature or nurture determines our outcome as humans. In Norway, these two concepts are melded so that nature is nurture or “home.” This symbiosis is an essential component of the Norwegian psyche and necessary for one’s well-being.
“The Way Home ”
Deep twilight is lovingly shared in this painting, with the house aglow and the moonlit path beckoning. Both the physical structure, which is embraced by the earth and sky, are one entity, showing home as a welcoming cozy place.
“All Lay Before Them”
This is the one painting in this series that includes people. For Americans, our immigrant past is always a part of our identity. Here we see the family in their Sunday best. They will leave their loved but beleaguered country for a new one.
Their sense of home will have two delineations, as is evidenced from us as Norwegian Americans. And these are the people the artist honors and remembers, as they had the courage to leave everything back home for new opportunities, yet, never erasing where they came from.
As a nod to the artist’s use of symbolism and detail, at the bottom left by the child’s foot is a seashell, a remembrance of this family’s home tied to the sea and the natural world. They will also have to journey across the ocean to reach their next destination and settle along the New York shore.
“The Home They Left ”
This piece stands out with it strong use of color, burnt orange in the foreground, juxtaposed with powder blues and slate. The majestic immenseness of Norwegian nature swallows the small home. It also speaks to the darker side of nature, how Norway and its people have always been at the mercy of an unpredictable, harsh environment.
“Coming and Going”
The choice for a horizontal expanse and dissection is visually very interesting. The title, “Coming and Going,” also causes one to pause. In many cases, when people emigrated from Norway to America, they never returned, especially those who settled in landlocked regions. Many of these transplanted Norwegians were hit by waves of nostalgia throughout their lives.
But many who left from the Norwegian coasts were sailors, who experienced extended periods away from their homeland to then return over and over again. In fact, in Brooklyn, there was an interesting pattern of emigration from the south of Norway, Andersen’s ancestral homeland. One generation would be born in Norway, the next in Brooklyn, and the next in Norway.
It also points to the cultural connection all immigrants and their descendants have to their place of origin, a relationship that influences and informs them.
Artist Lois Tønnessen Andersen chose to do an entire series of paintings, exploring her ancestral home of Norway, which lies so deeply engrained at the core of her spirit. For Andersen, the tug of home is something we cannot escape, always beckoning us to embrace it.
In this vein, the artist’s statement ends with a quote from T.S. Eliot’s, Four Quartets: “…and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
For a preview of Lois Tønnesen Andersen’s work, visit www.loisandersenfineart.com.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 18, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.