“Seeds” exhibit opens in the Norway House Galleri

Bergen-based artist Finn Eirik Modahl returns to the Twin Cities

Photo: Max Stevenson
“Seeds” can be seen in different ways during the different seasons of the year and different times of the day, all dependent on the light.

Laila Simon

There is a new focal point on the Norway House campus, unveiled for the grand reopening of the event center expansion last October. The grandiose, polished steel sculpture, “Seeds,” was crafted by artist Finn Eirik Modahl from Bergen, Norway. And visitors are asking, why a pinecone?

Each part of the installation of “Seeds’’ was intentional, starting with the selection process. After connecting with Modahl, Norway House created a sculpture committee to formulate and express what it was they wanted this central piece to convey to the community. After several months of discussion, the committee decided that, “[They] wanted a sculpture that is rooted in history and heritage but is forward looking and contemporary,” according to Max Stevenson, director of exhibitions and a key player in bringing this project to life.

Other keywords that came up when the team researched Norwegian sculpture: environment and nature, equality, inclusion, reflection, light, play, and clean lines. The committee selected Modahl because of his impressive body of work and multifaceted conceptions of what this sculpture could represent.

“Seeds” is a companion to a sister sculpture right outside of Bergen, “Konglo.” Finn Eirik said, “People were talking about the pinecone, and I didn’t want to repeat myself, but I thought we could make a sister pinecone that’s not exactly the same. It’s bonded. We can make it in reflective material.” These mirroring pine cone statues add another layer of connection between the two countries. The biggest difference is the material. “Konglo” is made of copper, representing one of the oldest metals and the age of the area surrounding Sotra. “Seeds” is made of a bright, cold-hammered stainless steel. All of it is handmade, without heat, and finally polished. The entire piece is a mirror, reflecting everything around it in unique ways.

Photo: Amy Coppersmith
Artist Finn Eirik Modahl explores the texture of his “Seeds” sculpture.

As the project progressed, even more connections appeared. The pine cone motif also references Minnesota’s state tree, the Norway Red Pine. Norway House wanted the piece to be inclusive of the Norwegian American community and also of their neighboring cultural communities in Minneapolis.

Modahl explained, “It’s not a closed pinecone, it’s open and dropping its seeds. The seed in the pinecone is like a twin, it drops and goes into two. So it contains a lot of symbols: the fruitful branch, and the twin seeds.” The seeds honor the local immigrant community who have planted roots in the Twin Cities.

“It’s for everybody,” Stevenson said.

Photo: Joseph Grødahl
Norway House visitors stand attentively to watch the opening program for “Seeds” on Feb. 24. The exhibit runs through April 29.

The location of “Seeds” was carefully selected. Modahl likes how the sculpture “…works with the people and scenery… [it is] a magnet for people and for children.” The sculpture has already become a centerpiece of multigenerational participation.

A new Norway House member, Leah Sixkiller, described this experience, “The pinecone sculpture is stunning, but it is also approachable. At first sight, I stood back to marvel at its beauty, but my kids just ran right into, through, and around it!”

At the original unveiling, Modahl noticed that even Queen Sonja was drawn into the folds of the sculpture itself.

Photo: Joseph Grødahl
The “Seeds” exhibit includes not only sculptural elements but also photographs and other graphical representations of Finn Eirik Modahl’s work.

Modahl’s work is the feature of the current exhibit in Norway House’s Galleri, honoring his permanent contribution to the new construction. The exhibit includes photographs of his other sculptural installations, mostly throughout Norway, alongside the documentation of the creation of the local “Seeds” pinecone. One of the most notable in this collection is the incredible “Genesis, Unge Olav” in Sarpsborg, Norway.

At the opening reception for the exhibit on Feb. 14, Martha Balfanz, member of Min­dekirken and Norway House, said, “I think it’s iconic. It brings attention to the Norwegian community. A focal point for this gathering place. When I was watching it get put up last year, I teared up, because I knew what it represented in my heart. It will bring us all together.” Norway House is taking root and grounding itself as the premiere Norwegian center of the United States. The new building allows for broader and deeper programming opportunities and points of connection.

Photo: Joseph Grødahl
Artist Finn Eirik Modahl (right) welcomes visitors to the new exhibit at Norway House, as Max Stevenson (left), director of exhibitions, stands by.

The exhibit, “Seeds,” runs through April 29. You can find more information on Finn Eirik’s website, modahl.com, and in the 2021 book, Destination Art by Amy Dempsey.

Also see: A new place for gathering and a new landmark in the November 4, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.
This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Laila Simon

Laila Simon is a writer in Minneapolis. She is a dual citizen of Norway and the United States and has been writing for The Norwegian American since 2017. When she’s not attempting ambitious recipes, Laila translates Norwegian poetry and adds to her houseplant collection.