Saturday, June 21, 2014

Art Contest – Adult Winners, Midsummer 2014

We had a very large number of entries in the adult division of this year's Midsummer Art Contest, and they were all fantastic! It was very difficult for the judges to rank them all in order, but we finally managed to do it. The artists live in many countries around the world: Brazil, England, Netherlands, Norway, Romania and the United States. The wandering ways of Odin sure have taken him to some interesting places!

Joanne's latest: The Gospel of Loki
All technical issues overcome, both Joris van Gelre and Joanne Harris were able to carefully consider and rank all the entries in the adult division. I greatly appreciate the time that both of them put in. Due to the large number of wonderful entries, the adult division was particularly hard to put in order.

I wish Joris the best of luck with his two post-Heidevolk music projects (:NODFYR: and Wederganger), and I sincerely hope that Joanne's publishers will realize how many fans her Runemarks series has here in the United States – and will release an American edition of her latest, The Gospel of Loki. We like Norse mythology here in the colonies, too!

You'll notice that we have a tie for runner-up this time around. Sveinn and Jorge both earned the exact same total score – only one point away from the bronze medal spot. We think that these two wonderful artists both deserve to have their work seen, and we think that you'll agree!

If you haven't seen the winning entries in the other age divisions, click here for the kid winners and here for the teen winners. Congratulations to all who won, thanks to everyone who entered, and hails to the judges for their work. Stay tuned for the Midwinter Art Contest later this year!

Note: You can click on the art to see larger versions.

Carl Olsen
Age 36
Santa Cruz, California, United States

Carl wrote this about his entry:
Since this sort of contest typically has to do with us (humans) viewing images of the Norse gods, I thought it would be fun to depict a viewing of the human world on the part of the Æsir and Vanir. 
For the midsummer theme, I have a majstång (midsummer pole/maypole) set up in the human world – maybe next to a Swedish lake from the looks of it – while a few of the gods (maybe Þórr, Freyja and Freyr, with Loki skulking in the corner) look on. In particular I thought it would be fun to have the majstång juxtaposed with the world tree Yggdrasill, here portrayed as a shady picnic spot for our mythic cast, but with gargantuan roots showing up in the human world to hint at its "foundational" role in the cosmos.
Carl won third place in Midsummer 2013 contest and third runner-up in the Midwinter 2013 contest. His art is always deeply informed by Norse mythology and culture. This makes sense, given that Carl has both an MA and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies from the University of California at Berkeley, where the well-known scholar John Lindow was his dissertation advisor. You should definitely check out Carl's own blog – Vikings, Books, Etc. I'm very glad that Carl won the top spot this time around!

First Place: Carl Olsen

Nina Bukala
Age 25
Echt, Limburg, The Netherlands

Nina really did a lot of research while working on her entry. While I'm not wholly convinced by her claims regarding ancient beliefs, I think her essay makes very clear why she included the various elements in her artwork.
The notion of the sun being pulled across the sky by a horse was already prevalent in prehistoric Indo-European societies. The simple initial image of one white horse pulling the sunwheel, later developed into more elaborate images including several white horses, a chariot and an anthropomorphic sun god(dess) driving the chariot. Because in the Northern Hemisphere, a left-right motion of the sun can be observed during the day, the sun horse has usually been depicted facing towards the right. Midsummer marks the day when the sun appears highest in the sky. At this point, the sun's movement seems to stop for a moment before reversing direction. While a moving wheel is represented by a tilted cross within a circle, a motionless wheel is symbolized by an upright cross within a circle. 
Among midsummer traditions and beliefs, plants take on an important role. Ferns, for example, were thought to flower and produce seeds only on Midsummer Night. According to folklore, the flower of the royal fern brings prosperity or magical abilities to the person who finds it and was therefore much sought after. The seeds would make one invisible and bring buried treasures to the surface. Midsummer has been Christianized as the feast of St. John the Baptist. Consequently, one herb which is traditionally linked to midsummer throughout Europe, has been named after the saint. St. John's wort, whose yellow flowers represent the sun, were picked at midsummer for their healing powers, protection against bad spirits and for divinatory purposes. 
Ox-eye daisy is a plant so white, that it has been compared to the fair god Baldr and therefore received the name “Baldr's brow.” On a astronomical level, Baldr's death symbolizes the decline of the sun's power after reaching its greatest height at the summer solstice. Cornflower is one of the many herbs that bloom at midsummer. Wild strawberries peak at midsummer as well and have been consumed in Europe since the Iron Age.
It certainly is a striking image! Congratulations to Nina for taking this project so seriously. The judges definitely appreciated it.

Second Place: Nina Bukala

Jennifer Elizabeth Speer
Age 43
Monrovia, California, United States

Jennifer writes, "My artwork represents Yggdrasil and includes the flowers calendula and St. John’s wort, both considered to have magical healing properties." Again, I'm not so sure about the connection between these beliefs and ancient practice, but this definitely is a beautiful and striking work of art!

Third Place: Jennifer Elizabeth Speer

Sveinn Fjölnisson
Age 22
Essex, England

Sveinn is a fascinating fellow. Based on his study of ancient languages, he has created a very personal reconstruction of what he considers to be the original Germanic gods that eventually evolved into the Norse gods that we are familiar with. Here's his description of the reconstructed group of gods that appear in his artwork:
Fascinated by mythology and language, my research has led me back to reconstruct a pantheon of the Common Germanic gods which later became Norse and Anglo-Saxon pantheons. 
Here we see the Ansiwiz (Æsir) enjoying midsummer as a family. Fergunaz (Fjörgynn) holds his axe aloft to bless the midsummer cheese and beer they will enjoy. His wife Fergunijō-Nerþuz (Fjörgyn-Njörð) stands by him proudly, resting her hands on the shoulders of their youngest son Þunraz (Þórr), who is brandishing his own mighty axe, for it's many years before Loki will join them and give him Melþunjaz (Mjölnir). Þunraz's older brother and sister, the famous twins, are Ingwaz-Frawjaz (Yngvi-Freyr) and Frijjō-Frawjō (Frigg-Freyja). The loving hand of Frijjō's husband, Wōdanaz (Óðinn), rests upon her shoulder, as she holds their baby son Baldaz (Baldr) who poking his tongue out, enjoys the warm summer air. 
Other figures to spot are, Fergunaz's hawk Wedrafalunjaz (Veðrfölnir) up a tree (creating birds from thought is a trick Fergunaz later teaches to Wōdanaz, who goes one further and creates two) and Tīwaz (Týr) the king of the sky, guiding the goddess Sōwilō (Sól) across the sky, herself being pulled by the glowing steed Skīnfahsô (Skínfaxi). 
The midsummer theme here is mainly influenced from the Latvian midsummer festival of Jani, where they eat cheese with caraway seeds, drink homemade beer, wear floral or oak wreaths in their hair, and stay up all night singing traditional songs by their fire waiting to greet the sun as she returns the next morning.
Sveinn's now studying linguistics at Birkbeck University of London. It's wonderful to have another person who loves this material decide to study it an advanced level. I'm very curious to know where his research will lead!

Runner-Up (Tie): Svein Fjölnisson

Jorge Alves de Lima Júnior
Age 45
Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil

Jorge's work comes from a very different creative space than these other entries. Rather than writing a explanation of his research, he sends a beautiful and spiritual description of his entry's conception:
Bifröst like I see – or better, like I feel. 
It is Midsummer Night. The sky is starry. The people gather around a campfire and tell stories – stories of gods and their exploits, stories of living in places in the ambiguous range between dream and reality 
Locking eyes packaged by the narrative, I have a brief and fleeting glimpse. I watch a good distance away what appears to be a bridge, but it is not a bridge. In my heart I know what it is, but I cannot rationally accept its existence: it is Bifröst, the link between worlds.
Jorge's work really does move beyond language and representation into a deeper place.

Runner-Up (Tie): Jorge Alves de Lima Júnior

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