Friday, October 28, 2016

Where Art and Scandinavia Meet: Alison Aune

It takes a special kind of fortitude to pursue an inner vision that is out of step with the prevailing winds. This is precisely where Alison Aune was at while acquiring degrees in art, including a doctorate from Ohio University (this blogger's alma mater.) While post-pop, modern and post-modern were in vogue, Aune derived inspiration from ancient cultures and her own Scandinavian roots, a vein she continues to mine to this day.

Aune is one of four women whose work will be on display in November as part of a Duluth Art Institute (DAI) exhibition titled 4North: New Work by Alison Aune, Kirsten Aune, Ann Klefstad, and Arna Rennan.

Earlier this week Ann Klefstad shared a little about her work in preparation for this show. Neither Klefstad nor Aune are strangers to group shows.

In 2007-2008 Alison Aune had a show featuring her Swedish paintings in the John Steffl Gallery at the DAI. She has a gallery above Pineapple Arts downtown and is a professor of art education at UMD. She traces her ancestors to both Norwegian and Swedish immigrants who no doubt found the beauty and climate here similar to their homeland... and "there's no place like home." (Especially if it's not Kansas.)

She did her doctoral these on the artist Cora Sandel. The ongoing theme through her work is women’s traditional crafts as inspiration for painting. What follows is from an artist statement:

Contact with pattern from Nordic women’s handwork down through the ages is important to her work. The cultural inheritance from the Nordic countries lies for her in what women sewed, knitted, embroidered or wove, in the home and often in collaboration with other women. It was folk art that came with the immigrant women to the Midwest. Aune’s paintings are multicultural and deal with women’s history, while at the same time the main motif is contemporary. With understanding and deliberateness she creates a clear departure from contemporary art. She has collected patterns from pillows, bedspreads, old mittens and wall hangings. Aune incorporates this into her paintings so that it creates a connection with collective patterns in earlier women’s handcrafts.

A 2015 artist statement amplifies some of these ideas still further:


Artists Between Two Cultures from Oslo: Dag og Tid, Dec.13th, 2013 by Oyvind Gulliksen (Trans. by Arna Rennan)

In these paintings, Alison Aune celebrates her ancestral Swedish heritage and culture by exploring traditional folk art textile patterns, designs, and symbols. In the Knäckebröd Mandala painting series she uses Siljan’s rye crisp bread wrappers as the circle mandala to symbolize harmony and balance. The floral patterns surrounding it and within it are from Swedish material culture: textile patterns such as dukagång, Dalarna kattun, IKEA napkins, and various wrapping papers. These paintings have been exhibited in Minnesota, Washington state, and Sweden.

Høstfest 2015

This is the statement from her 2008 show:


Nordic Pattern Paintings by Alison Aune

For the past several years, I have been integrating historic decorative-symbolic motifs found in Swedish and Norwegian textiles and domestic artifacts into my paintings. The first painting series was called Dekorglädje, literally translated from Swedish as “decoration happiness” and then my work expanded to a Floral Icon and Nordic Mandala series. My current project, Nordic Pattern Paintings includes both traditional Swedish and Norwegian symbolic patterns and designs with floral forms and portraiture. This project is a culmination of my Dekorglädje series and is rooted in the framework of a feminist aesthetic that honors women’s historic contributions to textiles and folk art. Through the process of inquiry, critical reflection, and the direct referencing of these decorative patterns into my paintings, I am discovering the original symbolic meanings and the cultural significance of these designs. In this way, I am not only exploring my heritage but I am keeping the imagery alive by re-contextualizing these ancient forms into a new and contemporary artistic form.

As you can see from the images here her work, like the hearts of the people of Scandinavia, is vividly colorful and stimulating. The attention to detail is rich, like the connections she makes with her culture, a culture woven into the fabric of our own. Especially here in the Northland.

The reception for 4North is November 10. If you are on Facebook, be sure to add it to your calendar.


Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it. 

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