Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Back to Your Roots; an Exploration

"Fish Market" 18x22 acrylic on canvas

What do you think of when people say “roots:” that it’s time to recolor your hair? that your newly planted vegetable garden is bursting into life? Or do you think of your child’s stubbornness when he or she plants those tiny feet firmly on the ground and shouts “No!”

For many of us the word roots means family: the people who have gone before us (ancestors) and the people who will come after (descendants). A wonderful new program on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) is called “Roots.” Produced and directed by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. the show “explores race, culture, and identity through the genealogies and family histories of famous people. The ‘who we are’ and ‘where we come from’ is at its core.”

The show is scheduled on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. EST. We have been enjoying it for several weeks at our house. It’s amazing to see that as we go back in time, we are all connected in some amazing ways. It touches my heart to see people find their roots, understand themselves better, and gain a new appreciation for those who have gone before. The show is emotional, surprising, and climactic. When the trail of family is exhausted, DNA evidence reveals additional information on country of origin.

"Innset Kirke" 11x14 oil on canvas  SOLD

My love for painting Norwegian scenes comes from my own Scandinavian roots in Sweden and Denmark, and my husband’s strong Norwegian ties as a direct descendant. His family comes from Stavanger and Skudeneshavn. Some of his ancestors were buried at the old Innset Kirke. His great, great grandfather was a lighthouse keeper for many years at Vikeholmen.

The family loves to tell the story of the beautiful nude young woman who would swim in the waters around the lighthouse. Eventually they were married. That’s one way to catch a husband!  I would love to get a hold of more information on the lighthouse and how long his great great grandfather cared for it.

Work-in-Progress -- Vikeholmen Lighthouse underpainting

I have two versions of the lighthouse that I’m going to paint. Of course, the original lighthouse is no longer there. An electronic machine has taken its place, but the area is still as beautiful as ever.

In Sweden, my great great grandmother baked pastries and sweets before sunrise and then sold the tasty treats on the city streets. She did this for many years.

Drawing for 2nd Vikeholmen Lighthouse painting 16x20 on canvas

One of her jobs as a young girl was to fill the vinegar jar with vinegar, a precious commodity, from a neighboring farm. Returning one day, she decided to shorten her walk by cutting through a pasture. Unfortunately, a bull ruled the grounds and decided to charge her. The vinegar jar was broken as she ran to climb over the fence. She received a sound scolding from her mother when she got home.

It’s fun to go back in time and research one’s family, if only for the stories. Better yet, gather the stories while your relatives are living. Their courage and strength in the face of difficulties is food for inspiration. Even if one generation fails you, there is always another one that may surprise and enlighten.

"Skudeneshavn, Norway" oil on 16x20 canvas  SOLD

The "old wooden village" above can be entered by land or water. Many festivals occur in the bay and people arrive by boat.

I hope you've enjoyed my completed African acrylic painting: “Fish Market,” my other Norwegian paintings, and my “works in progress.”