Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Art Contest – Teen Winners, Midsummer 2015

What happened to the teenagers this summer? The teen division of this year's Midsummer Art Contest did not have the depth and quality of entries that it has had in past midsummer and midwinter competitions. I almost didn't publish a post of teen winners at all, but one piece was so strong in the eyes of all three judges that we had to feature it. We salute Nordhild for her fantastic work, and we hope that her excellence will serve as a challenge to other teen artists around the world to put down their iPhones and create some quality art.

I'd like to thank my fellow judges Simon Fraser (comics artist for Doctor Who and Judge Dredd) and Merrill Kaplan (Associate Professor of Folklore and Scandinavian Studies at Ohio State University) for the time they spent considering the entries and for their thoughtful comments on the works created by these talenting young people. This contest would not be possible without their participation.

Congratulations to our winner! The assignment was to create a piece that related to an excerpt from the Old Norse poem Sigrdrífumál ("Sayings of Sigrdrifa") from the Poetic Edda, the great collection of mythological and heroic poems from medieval Iceland.

At this point in the poem, the dragonslayer Sigurð has just woken the Valkyrie Sigrdrífa (who may or may not be the heroine Brynhild under another name). She had been mystically put to sleep by the god Odin as punishment for vanquishing his chosen hero in battle.

As she wakes, the Valkyrie sings a beautiful song of celebration. In the classic 1923 translation by Henry Adams Bellows, she sings:

Hail, day! Hail, sons of day!
And night and her daughter now!
Look on us here with loving eyes,
That waiting we victory win.

Hail to the gods! Ye goddesses, hail,
And all the generous earth!
Give to us wisdom and goodly speech,
And healing hands, life-long.

Nordhild shows how emotional and intellectual engagement with Norse mythology can lead to the creation of powerful works of art. I hope to see more teen entries at this level of quality in the Midwinter 2015 contest!

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

Nordhild Siglinde Wetzler
Age 16
Lemnhult, Sweden

Nordhild wrote this about her entry:
I chose to paint the emotion of the song and scene. I've known this story since I was a little girl, and the feeling I always had when Sigrdrífa/Brynhild awakens was that of joy.

I think that even though she was asleep, she still felt the long passing of time. So, when Sigurð finally comes for her, she not only wakes up but comes back to life. She greets the day and the night because she is so happy to be alive again that she will face whatever challenges life may have to offer.

Since she has been sleeping alone for so long, I picture it as if the wilderness has begun to creep back in. Vines grow over her body and her bed is made of moss. When she awakens, she regains her strength and tears herself free from her bonds. I wanted my painting to show the joy of life.
Nordhild won second place in both the Midwinter 2013 and Midsummer 2014 art contests. Her art always shows a deep connection to the spirit of the mythology. I look forward to seeing more of her wonderful work in the future!

Simon writes, "This is actually really good! Beautifully drawn and conceived. This might be my favorite piece of all of them [in the three age divisions]. To be this good at sixteen is impressive."

Merrill says, "Flame-haired Sigrdrífa! Sometimes one tires of blonde valkyries, which seem to be the modern standard. In the nineteenth century, Brynhild often got dark hair to contrast with blonde Guðrún, and to mark her as dark and thus evil. Ugh. (Disclosure: Yes, I am dark haired.) This red is original, full of energy, and a great echo of the flames. I like the idea of nature having crept into the tower while she slept. It’s a great way to signify the passage of time without mixing in ideas of decay. Who knows? Maybe the deep canyon before her was not so deep when she’d first lain down. The shape of it suggests that it was cut by water rather than glaciers."

First Place: Nordhild Siglinde Wetzler

Adult winners will be announced tomorrow!

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