Now at the Pollock Gallery: Icelandic Artist’s Take on Textiles

September 18, 2008  

By Kamille Carlisle
kcarlisl@smu.edu

“Encircling,” Hildur Bjarnadottir’s exhibit, is now on display at the Pollock Gallery, located in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center.

Bjarnadottir, an artist from Iceland, uses paints and various fabrics with her distinctive form of traditional textile creation.

Her pieces featured at the Pollock include hand weaved canvases, some of which incorporate paint or ink, porcelain statues called “My Three Grandmothers,” and lint roller snapshots of 13 women that have played important roles in her life.

“The viewer has to spend time with it, and they have to read the labels,” Bjarnadottir explained.

“Each piece tells its own story and you can look for the little clues of how they are organic and hand-made.”

Pollock Gallery director and Meadows art professor Philip Van Keuren said, “The work is authentic I believe, and all things authentic are valuable to students to study.”

Bjarnadottir’s art has been showcased in a number of exhibits in Iceland, New York, and Portland, Ore., since the late ’90s. She considers her pieces to be paintings, drawings, and sculptures, as she merges aspects of each into certain parts of her work.

Her “doodles,” for example, which have been featured at the Pulliam Deffenbaugh Gallery in Portland, are pieces of cotton yarn, knitted into pattern-free doilies. They are then filled with flowers and aimless curvy lines, died in blue ink or dipped in graphite powder, which hardens them. They are her version of a drawing on paper.

In her lecture, as the first of the Meadows Artist Lecture Series, on Sept. 11, Bjarnadottir discussed her methods and inspiration. According to her, in Iceland, sewing and woodworking are taught to elementary school-age children and ingrained in the culture.

“My two sisters and I would crotchet in our spare time for fun,” Bjarnadottir said. “It was always something very close to me. My mother taught me to invent.”

She described the value of her heritage and its effect on what she does. Bjarnadottir said that her grandmothers handcrafted everything, from clothing to tapestries, but would put them away and “decorate their houses with mass-produced, made-in-china kinds of figures.”

While she said her craft is sometimes seen as carrying on an old female tradition of sewing, Bjarnadottir sees her work as respectable art.

“Everything I do is elevated, not put away,” she said. “It’s perfectly valuable art. It is actually an advantage.”

At her opening reception last Friday, spectators gathered to have the first look at the free exhibit, which will run until Oct. 11.

Former SMU student and artist Andrew Barner carefully examined each piece, reading the captions.

“I can appreciate her manipulation of the medium,” Barner said. “She’s really good at what she does.”

As people trickled in and out, Bjarnadottir spoke to patrons who had questions or comments.

“I totally enjoy this,” she said. “It’s never redundant and always exciting.”

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