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Press Release

Wood, no Splinters, On View This Summer in New Exhibition at American Swedish Institute, Opening June 14

Swedish woodcraft and carving experts to be celebrated in “Leaving Your Mark: Stories in Wood”, a tribute to makers, past and present— through October 29  
March 2, 2023 By Darby Johnson

MINNEAPOLIS —March 2, 2023— A punk rock woodcarver, the hand carved art of survival, and some of Sweden’s most celebrated handcraft practitioners converge at the American Swedish Institute this summer to celebrate Sweden’s long history of woodcraft, alongside the local maker community.  

Beginning June 14, the new exhibition “Leaving Your Mark: Stories in Wood”, will offer visitors a chance to explore the past, present, and future of woodcarving as an art form. Modern-day carvings from Swedish punk rock woodcarver Claes Larsson will be presented alongside works by some of the Nordic region’s celebrated woodcarvers, and a selection of works by famed flat-plane woodcarver Herman Rosell, to demonstrate the long history of the craft as both an art of survival and an exchange of ideas.  

A series of carefully selected hand-carved objects representing the great wave of Swedish immigration will be on view from ASI’s collections. These are tools of necessity made and used by some of Minnesota’s earliest settlers. Sentimental objects brought by Nordic immigrants and passed 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. The exhibit features a range of wood carving collections, including the iconic figurine collection by Swedish artist Herman Rosell and local artist Liesel Chatman’s kolsrosing spoon series.  

Herman Rosell began his woodcarving career in his early thirties not expecting to become one of the most prominent woodcarvers depicting everyday Swedish life. Without using models or reference photos, Rosell was able to represent elements of history that he had not experienced himself. His figures are highly detailed, and it is easy to distinguish sadness and frustration from joy and gladness in the highly emotive faces of his wooden figures.    

This exhibition will mark the first time works by Claes Larsson, known professionally as ClaesKamp, will be displayed in the United States. His work pays homage to Sweden’s traditional woodcarving past, but looks forward, both embracing and combatting traditional techniques of woodcarving. His pieces are infused with themes of freedom, justice, and acceptance. They’re beautiful, sometimes challenging, and full of the punk rock heart Larsson has embraced since childhood.  

“We are honored to host Claes Larsson for his very first exhibition in the US and to explore the way his techniques contribute to the long history of woodcarving as an art form,” says Ingrid Nyholm-Lange, ASI’s Director of Experience. “This new exhibition will offer visitors a chance to discover how the past and present of woodcraft are linked, and how tradition, technique, and change, are in constant conversation with one another.” 

Larsson will travel from Sweden for the opening of “Leaving Your Mark,” and will present two artist talks and a demonstration during ASI’s Midsommar Celebration on Saturday, June 17. The exhibition will be complemented by a series of workshops, demos, and events in collaboration with the Weavers Guild of Minnesota and the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center. 

In concert with “Leaving Your Mark”, ASI will host a series of events in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Sätergläntan, one of Sweden’s most preeminent institutions for the practice and preservation of handcraft. Located in the culturally rich region of Dalarna, Sweden, Sätergläntan is a modern-day meeting place where artists from around the globe travel to share ideas and learn from some of the world’s best artisans. Thanks to support from the American Scandinavian Foundation, ASI will welcome several of Sätergläntan’s current teaching artists to share their knowledge and teach handcraft classes in June. Among others, Sätergläntan’s own woodworking instructor Beth Moen will demonstrate her 35 years’ worth of woodcarving skills and impressive range of projects. 

American Swedish Institute (ASI), designated to the National Register for Historic Places, is a historic castle-like mansion, museum and cultural center, and a gathering place for all people to explore diverse experiences of migration, identity, belonging, and the environment through arts and culture, informed by enduring links to Sweden. ASI, which The Wall Street Journal calls “[a] model of how a small institution can draw visitors through exciting programming,” is located at 2600 Park Avenue in Minneapolis. For more, visit asimn.org.

Media Contact: Darby Johnson, Public Relations Specialist