Experience / Exhibitions / Leaving Your Mark: Stories in Wood

Leaving Your Mark: Stories in Wood

From traditional craft born of necessity to contemporary art with a punk heart, Leaving Your Mark is an exploration of lived experience, tradition, and change, conveyed through the craft of wood.  

This new exhibition features the U.S. premiere of Swedish artist Claes Larsson, known as ClaesKamp, whose expressive woodcarvings reflect his punk rock roots and respond to contemporary issues facing the world. Primarily creating sculptures out of wood, Claes explores the border between traditional woodwork and the foundational experiences of his younger years with street art and punk. His techniques are surprising, and in many ways topple the traditional rules of wood slöjd in pursuit of the next generation of this artform. His works invite visitors to reconsider the notion that handcraft is primarily a functional art form, or an art of survival, and at the same time underscore handcraft’s longstanding tradition as a medium for the exchange of ideas.  

“As a kid I used to have ‘painting Fridays’ with my dad. He got a beer and I got something with a lot of sugar, we listened to rock n’ roll and painted all night. Never with any demands of certain results or progress, but for the fun of it. That’s where I found art.” – Claes Larsson 

Alongside Claes will be shown works by local artist Liesl Chatman. Liesl employs kolrosing and carving as means to process and reflect on lived experience. Among other works by Liesl, visitors will be able to view a special spoon carving project she launched in 2020 to respond to the simultaneous crises of COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd, and the ensuing protests that erupted only a few blocks from ASI’s campus.  

A series of carefully selected hand-carved objects from ASI’s collection will be displayed throughout the historic Turnblad Mansion—which is itself a masterclass in woodcarving. Throughout the galleries, visitors will encounter tools of necessity made and used by some of Minnesota’s earliest settlers to the sentimental objects brought by Nordic immigrants and passed on through generations. Although separated by time and place, these objects represent the lived experiences of each of their makers and invite visitors to consider how handcraft has evolved over time. 

Leaving Your Mark coincides with the 100th anniversary of Sätergläntan, one of Sweden’s oldest and most cherished centers for learning and preserving handcraft. Students from all over the world travel to learn from master artisans at this boundary-breaking meeting place and knowledge center in the Swedish region of Dalarna. Four of Sätergläntan’s current teaching artists specializing in woodcarving, blacksmithing, sewing, and weaving, along with the organization’s director, will visit ASI this summer to teach a series of workshops, supported by funding from the American Scandinavian Foundation.  

Visitors will also be able to view a selection of Scandinavian flat-plane figure carvings from ASI’s collection by beloved Swedish artist Herman Rosell (1893–1969) alongside excerpts from As It Was Before, a new publication that tells stories of Swedish immigration to America inspired by Herman Rosell’s figure carvings. The book includes an appendix of the complete collection of Rosell carvings owned by ASI and is now available in the ASI Museum Store.  

Each hand-carved wood object in Leaving Your Mark is a vessel for someone’s voice and story—will you be the one who listens? 

Watch ClaesKamp make art come to life in front of your eyes at ASI’s Midsommar Celebration on June 17! ClaesKamp will be doing demos throughout the day along with other artists. Get tickets now and visit this link

Exhibition Supporters

Leaving Your Mark: Stories in Wood is supported by the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation and ASI’s members and donors. The exhibition’s Media Partner is the Star Tribune. Minnesota artist activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. 

Star Tribune logo