Lifestyle

Connected threads: A Swedish and Alaska artist exchange


Sunlight streamed via the entrance home windows of the Bunnell Street Arts Center final week as visiting Swedish artist Berith Stennabb sat in stockinged toes, crocheting with the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. She was making one thing delicate for such a troublesome time, Stennabb mentioned.

When Stennabb arrived in Homer in February, she thought she may use outdated supplies from the fishing business in her evolving artwork set up at Bunnell. But given her adaptive strategy, when a Homer resident introduced in dozens of skeins of yarn, Stennabb’s imaginative and prescient shifted.

An artist who usually blends choreography with textile and fiber designs, Stennabb is in Homer as a part of a two-month-long artist in residency trade with the Konstmuseet, Skövde Kulturhus in Skövde, Sweden. Local Homer artist Mandy Bernard, who additionally works predominantly with textile and fiber, spent November and December 2021 in Skövde.

Asia Freeman, the creative director of Bunnell Street Arts Center, mentioned the concept for the trade began in 2018, when two Swedish curators reached out about inviting an Alaska artist to their museum in Sweden.

“I found it interesting that they stated their interest in residencies for places where democracy is imperiled,” Freeman mentioned.

When the curators visited Alaska to satisfy potential candidates and see their art work, the dialog grew to incorporate bringing Swedish artists for a residency in Homer as properly, Freeman mentioned.

Plans solidified for Bernard’s Swedish residency early in 2020, with Stennabb chosen to be her native host and peer artist in Skövde — after which the COVID-19 pandemic put life on pause. Rather than let the chance disappear fully, nevertheless, the Skövde Museum sponsored a long-distance artwork trade between Bernard and Stennabb.

The two artists arrange a joint Instagram account and exchanged art work by mail, sharing tales and attending to know one another. Bernard despatched a crocheted web as a mirrored image of Homer’s ties to the ocean, she mentioned, and of her personal time working repairing fishing nets.

When they lastly met and started collaborating in Skövde in 2021, “we sort of centered on thinking about a net or a web,” Bernard mentioned, approaching the theme from totally different angles.

“A lot of our work in textiles, there’s an element of pattern and repetition,” Bernard added. “When you’re crocheting something, you’re tying these knots over and over and over. And the same when you’re making a net — it’s just a series of knots, a pattern that creates something else.”

Bernard defined a lot of her present textile work is within the model of tufting, which is a method involving reducing and looping fiber via a cloth base. Her residency in Sweden, the place she was collaborating in a brand new, and extra public area, helped Bernard step outdoors her regular creative course of.

“Much of what (Stennabb) does is improvisation and free moving and flow(ing) — and a lot of what I do is very rigid and precise,” Bernard mentioned. “I think that the experience has shaken me out of that.”

Stennabb usually incorporates motion and videography into her textile artworks, so one of many issues the 2 artists did collectively was movie their fingers as they silently folded a garment that Stennabb created.

“It was such a simple thing,” Bernard mentioned. “It was becoming something new — it wasn’t just a shirt that was wearable, it looked like an origami piece.”

That interplay sparked a venture that Stennabb is continuous now throughout her residency at Bunnell. She is inviting locals to usher in a textile — a chunk of material or garment — and to share the tales it holds for them as she movies their fingers folding and unfolding it collectively.

“If we talk about something that brings up memories, you could also see this in our hands,” Stennabb mentioned.

Whether it’s a dance efficiency, the easy act of folding or the lengthy hours that she and Bernard spent unraveling wool donated by a girls’s weaving collective throughout their time collectively in Sweden, Stennabb mentioned she is fascinated by on a regular basis motions.

In Homer, she has centered on creating an area that feels welcoming and inclusive, even letting guests add to, and work together along with her art work.

“It’s not mine. It’s ours to share,” Stennabb mentioned.

Her openness to alter additionally serves as a supply of inspiration. In Alaska, Stennabb has used the panorama, walks on the seashore and native tales to assist form her artwork. One piece was impressed partially by the form of oil containment booms in photos of the Exxon Valdez oil spill that Stennabb noticed on the Pratt Museum. At first, Stennabb titled the work “Lost at Sea,” however added a second title after overhearing a toddler’s response: “Wishbone with a Beard.”

“I don’t think that I will ever tell someone how to feel or how to react,” Stennabb mentioned.

Before her residency at Bunnell, Stennabb mentioned she was feeling a bit caught, questioning the place to go subsequent along with her work, however mentioned she’s excited to convey the unfolding follow dwelling along with her.

In addition to Bernard and Stennabb, Anchorage-based Ahtna and Paiute artist Melissa Shaginoff additionally participated within the residency trade, and Bunnell is wanting ahead to internet hosting Swedish artist Dano Willhelmsson this summer time.

Freeman mentioned residencies may be worthwhile for artists as a result of they supply the time and area to develop and discover concepts in a brand new group, and that her tackle Stennabb’s interactive work at Bunnell is that change is an integral part.

“What Berith is doing is really informed by this particular time that we’re living in from pandemic to the war in Ukraine,” Freeman mentioned, “where both the threads of connection are more vulnerable and more important right now.”

“Artists are sensitive to world events, and they tend literally to weave them in.”

Sean McDermott is a contract author residing in Homer.

“Lost at Sea” or “Wishbone with a Beard” is a piece by Bunnell Street Arts Center artist-in-residence Berith Stennabb inspired by Exxon Valdez Oil Spill oil containment booms.

“Lost at Sea” or “Wishbone with a Beard” is a chunk by Bunnell Street Arts Center artist-in-residence Berith Stennabb impressed by Exxon Valdez Oil Spill oil containment booms.

Bunnell Street Arts Center visiting artist-in-residence Berith Stennabb poses next to one of her pieces, “Anomicholistic ar.35.” (Photo by Sean McDermott)

Bunnell Street Arts Center visiting artist-in-residence Berith Stennabb poses subsequent to considered one of her items, “Anomicholistic ar.35.” (Photo by Sean McDermott)

Bunnell Street Arts Center visiting artist-in-residence Berith Stennabb, left, and Homer artist Mandy Bernard, record the collaborative process of unraveling wool donated by a regional weaving collective in Sweden during Bernard’s visit to the Konstmuseet, Skövde Kulturhus in Skövde, Sweden in November and December 2021. (Photo by Hugo Andersson)

Bunnell Street Arts Center visiting artist-in-residence Berith Stennabb, left, and Homer artist Mandy Bernard, document the collaborative technique of unraveling wool donated by a regional weaving collective in Sweden throughout Bernard’s go to to the Konstmuseet, Skövde Kulturhus in Skövde, Sweden in November and December 2021. (Photo by Hugo Andersson)






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