Gone but not Forgotten, 2011

acrylic, paper on panel and canvas, 50 inches by 35 inches


Duluth, MN

I found the phrase “Gone but Not Forgotten” on the family head stone of my maternal Swedish immigrant ancestors in the Center City Cemetery. The phrase inspired the creation of this painting and a series of paintings that I made to honor my Swedish and Norwegian ancestors who first came to Minnesota in 1869 and 1900.

I painted the blooming amaryllis in an altar format to honor the memory of my ancestors. The amaryllis is a seasonal symbol of renewal, hope, and celebration in Sweden and Norway. I included hands (decorative floral mittens), sølje (silver), the eight pointed star, and bunad embroidered designs that are all traditional symbols of good luck and protection. The background and border patterns are derived from IKEA wrapping papers, Siljans rye crisp bread wrappers, and Nordic textile designs that I altered and rearranged.

In this painting, I worked within a framework of a feminist aesthetic — honoring women’s contributions to folk art by reviving and reinterpreting traditional designs into a contemporary context. I explored Scandinavian women’s symbolic textile designs as significant sources of artistic inspiration. After painting this, I read that according to textile historian Annemor Sundbø, in traditional Norwegian folk beliefs the repetition and mirror imaging of textile patterns gave strength and protective power to visual symbols. So in this way I have repeated, and reinterpreted, these culturally rooted designs and symbols from textiles to paint to honor and to remember.