The exhibition “Wit in Wood: Nordic Figure Carving,” which opened at the American Swedish Institute (ASI) on Jan. 20, will be on view through April 29, 2012.

The distinctive figure carving of the Nordic countries has a captivating quality. Generations of gifted whittlers carved not only for their own amusement, and also for others. By the mid-1800s carvers of little wooden men, women and horses marketed their works to supplement meager farm incomes to feed growing families. The best home carvers became itinerant artists, trading work for lodging, and with time talents traversed the Atlantic.
The exhibit at American Swedish Institute reveals the great mastery in these often understated, but clever, pieces, showcasing some of the masters represented in the institute’s extensive collection of woodcarvings, including Emil Janel, Axel Petersson (Döderhultarn), H.S. “Andy” Anderson, Herman Rosell, the Tryggs, and Urban Gunnarsson, with a special focus on Georg Brask.

Guest curated by America’s most accomplished Scandinavian-style figure carver, Harley Refsal of Decorah, Iowa, the exhibit will also feature his work, including his signature Dalapalooza dala horses. Dalapalooza is a collaborative and cumulative artistic project begun by Refsal a decade ago in which people of diverse interests and backgrounds decorate two identical horses he has carved; one for the decorating artist to keep, while the other joins Refsal's ever-growing collection. ASI has initiated its own version of this project, the Dalahorse Dialogue, and results will be on display as part of Wit in Wood, as well as about 75 horses from the Dalapalooza herd.
Opening weekend (Jan. 20-22) programming includes an opening reception and talk on Friday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m., a “Carve-Out” (like a knit-out, but for woodcarvers!) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and woodcarving demonstrations by students from Luther College on Saturday and Sunday during museum hours. Harley Refsal will also give a talk on Sunday, Jan. 22 at 2:30 p.m.

For more info, see The American Swedish Institute