Thursday, June 18, 2020

Art Contest – Teen Winners, Midsummer 2020

This year's Midsummer Art Contest didn't receive any entries in the kids division, but there was an amazing number of entries from around the world in the teen and adult groups. Given the high level of art and the depth of thought behind them, it was very difficult for each of us to rank them all.

I'd like to thank my fellow judges Dom Reardon (UK artist for 2000 AD, Judge Dredd Megazine, and other great comics) and Utkarsh Patel (comparative mythologist, educator, and novelist in India). I really appreciate the time that they have volunteered to rank and comment on all the entries. This contest would not be possible without their generosity and kindness.

The assignment was to create a piece that somehow relates to the myths of the World Tree and the celebration of midsummer. There was a great variety of concept between the works of each of these young artists. We send a big thank you to everyone who submitted a piece. We really enjoyed all of them!

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

Kimberly Roy
Age 15
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Kimberly provides a detailed description of her painting:
The World Tree has been depicted as an artist’s interpretation of a traditional ash tree. Miðgarð in the center is represented by Jörmungandr (the Miðgarð Serpent) and the solar cross. The solar cross is a modern astronomical symbol for earth and the Nordic symbol for the sun. This adds to the spirit of midsummer. The other eight worlds have been represented by their Nordic symbols, projecting outwards from the tree.

Entangled within the roots of the tree, we have Níðhögg, the serpent gnawing at the roots of Yggdrasil (the World Tree). Perched at the apex of the tree we have the eagle and the hawk, Vedrfölnir, sitting between its eyes. We have the squirrel Ratatosk carrying messages between the eagle and Níðhögg. Amongst the branches of the tree are four pairs of antlers that represent the stags of the tree. At the tip of each of the three main roots of the tree is a blue flower. Each flower represents the sources of nourishment of the tree: Spring of Hvergelmir, Well of Urð, and Spring of Mímir.

Midsummer is the longest day of the year, the day when the sun shines the longest. The goddess of the sun is Sól. One of her symbols is the sunflower. Therefore, the petals around the tree are those of a sunflower. Bonfires are a symbol of midsummer. Therefore, I have chosen to depict a fire sunflower (Helianthus annuus) around the tree. The shaded petals show the flickering blaze of glory of the midsummer bonfires. The wreath of flowers separating the tree and the petals is another symbol of midsummer.

In summary, I have tried to incorporate Yggdrasil and the spirit of midsummer in a single flower. Flowers not only represent midsummer but also the beauty of nature: one of the pillars of Norse mythology.
Dom, Utkarsh, and I had very different rankings of the other entries, but all three of us ranked Kimberly's picture in the number one spot. I really love the design of this work and the way that physical objects are used in symbolic ways. Congratulations on this powerful artwork, Kimberly!

Dom writes, "This one is so intricate and beautiful. I can't find any faults with it, so it has to be my winner."

Utkarsh comments, "Very good combination of color and the motifs of the tree. Good symmetry."

First Place: Kimberly Roy

Sindhuja S.
Age 17
Mumbai, Mararashtra, India

Sindhuja writes this about her entry:
A girl reads a book on Norse mythology, painting portraits of the nine realms using the brush of her fertile imagination. She breathes life into this world and all those within, partaking in the celebration of midsummer eve from a distance. The girl imagines the sterling forests and luscious sky of Vanaheim, the fiery lava and ashen rocks of Muspelheim and the snowy peaks and icy mist of Niflheim. She notices a tree in the distance, and the infinitesmal tail of a squirrel, all too familiar to forget.

The child is there, in Miðgarð, where all the beings of the nine realms have arrived to celebrate the eve of midsummer. Gathered around a joyous bonfire are a dwarf from Niðavellir, a soul from Hel, a human from Miðgarð, and an elf from Álfheim. A maypole hangs from the tree, providing further cause to engage in revelry. Sköll, the wolf chasing the sun, rests in the lap of the World Tree, as his prey is furthest away from him on this day. The World Serpent, Jörmungandr, slithers below, in attendance of this great festivity. The night sky is lit by the incandescent candles of the galaxy, as the gods look upon the faces of each present. Every heart beats the same, every mind thinks the same, every soul feels the same: ecstasy.
This is a fantastic and thoughtful work. The colors are so brilliant, and the idea that reading the Norse myths can transport us into another world of the imagination is really wonderful. Cheers!

Dom comments, "I really like the concept of the book making up part of this image, like a portal to the other realms."

Utkarsh adds, "Very imaginative and deft strokes."

Second Place: Sindhuja S.

Shamika Ail
Age 18
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Shamika describes her work:
For the contest, I decided to create a representation of the World Tree and the nine worlds in my own creative manner. I have also portrayed three of the animals, including the serpent, the eagle, and the squirrel. I have tried to integrate the two topics by showing the midsummer celebrations in Miðgarð.

To bring in the aspect of midsummer, I showed women preparing for midsummer celebrations before sunrise. It shows women making the maypole and a bonfire. One can also see a woman with flowers in her hair, waiting for the sun to rise. The sunrise is symbolic of happiness, fertility, and enlightenment, which she looks forward to. Like the World Tree connects the worlds together with its roots, the midsummer celebrations help people connect with each other and nature with their common spirit of solidarity and love for each other.
This is such a joyous piece! I really love the sense of depth and the way that Shamika makes the different worlds feel both comfortingly close and majestically distant.

Dom writes, "Incredibly vibrant colors in this one. Very strong indeed. I particularly like the way the clouds have been handled here."

Utkarsh comments, "The symbols of midsummer have been blended very well with the tree and the animals."

Third Place: Shamika Ail

Stuti Mehta
Age 17
McKinney, Texas, USA

Stuti writes about her artwork:
In my piece, the sun goddess Sól is looking over a midsummer celebration. The ring around Sól’s head shows the progression of the sun throughout the year. At midsummer, it has reached its highest point and now shines over the people dancing around a symbolic maypole.

Yggdrasil, the World Tree, is representative of the midsummer maypole and, being the axis mundi, it connects the people to Sól and the gods. Among the many branches of Yggdrasil, Ratatosk and an eagle watch the celebration that is occurring down below. Sól blesses the people honoring her with warmth and joy. She radiates positivity and gives the hope and strength required to survive the gradually approaching bitter winter.

In the spirit of Litha, people are wearing traditional clothes and are celebrating among a lush garden with fireflies and flowers. The marigolds and daisies are in full bloom, indicating that it is peak warm summer and the power of Sól is its highest.

In uncertain times like now, I believe Sól will be the positive light guiding us through darkness. Goddess Sól’s blessings will get us through all difficulties we are facing and give us the hope and strength we need to keep moving forward.
This is such a mature work with such thoughtfulness behind it. Stuti should be very proud of what she has accomplished and communicated here.

Dom comments, "Great composition on this one. I particularly like the pattern work in Sól's hair."

Utkarsh writes, "A pleasing look and a good usage of the main motifs of midsummer."

Adult winners will be announced tomorrow!

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