Check out the elegant exhibition currently showing at Trygve Lie Gallery, which features drawings and sculptures by four talented women with Nordic roots. The exhibit's title, “The Sweetest Thing,” is taken from the two Icelandic documents that form the Vinland Sagas, which represent the most complete information we have about the Norse exploration of the Americas.

Scandinavians in a new land
The thread that ties these women together is their own, modern experience as Scandinavians in a new land. The artists are: Elisa Jensen, a Danish American; Norwegian-born Torild Stray; Natalie Moore, a New York artist with Norwegian roots; and, Norwegian-born Leonor Anker.
Of them, Anker’s work made the strongest impression on me. Anker divides her time between Spain, Italy, New York and Norway. She brought sculptures made out of burlap, a canvas woven from jute typically used for sacking. These pieces are called flourwork since she uses a mixture of water and different kinds of flour to sculpt the burlap.
“I used to work with plaster,” Anker explains. “But plaster was a bit too pliable—it does exactly what you want it to do without resistance. I needed a material with more independence.”
Hence burlap. The sculptures look like historical remnants, like pieces of garments or sails washed up on some distant beach. Though they are old and worn, in shades of bone and ivory, they still ooze life.

Elisa Jensen’s works—ink on paper—are huge and have lots of texture.
“I use my nails. I scrape and sandpaper them to get them like this,” she says as we take a closer look at “Cocoon Man Court Square.”
“I used to always paint children,” Jensen says. “But then I looked at my neighborhood (Greenpoint, Brooklyn) and decided to investigate that instead.”
She watches the homeless people on the sly, explaining that they don’t know she is sketching them.
“It would be a totally different thing if they were aware of me. These are people you never really see.”
Jensen’s works are in muted, dark colors.

Then there's Natalie Moore’s painted steel wire mesh that looks like a flock of birds taking flight. There is a surprising lightness about them.
“They look like they weigh nothing, like they’re made of tissue paper,” I say.
“Don’t they? I’ve worked with the idea of transparency for the past three years,” Moore says. “I’m intrigued by how something can look solid from one point of view, to just disappear altogether when you move a bit. It’s psychological, it makes you think about trusting your vision.”
Moore shapes the steel by hand and then paints it, sometimes in several layers of different paint.

Lastly, there’s the work by Torild Stray, large scale charcoal and acrylic works on paper in low understated colors.
“Images can be healing, while at the same time intense,” Stray says.
She says she invited the other artists to the show.
“Invited sounds better than curated,” she muses. Officially, however, she is the curator of the show. She wanted to have sculptures and drawings rather than paintings exhibited, stating drawing is more immediate a medium than painting.
“Somehow it feels more primal.”
And primal is a bit of a leitmotif for the whole show. Primal yet sophisticated.

“The Sweetest Thing” runs through January 8, 2011.
For more information, see www.trygveliegallery.com