Walk into an art gallery anywhere and you're likely to see someone glued to their smartphone instead of looking around. Rather than get upset, Sweden-based, U.S.-born artist Jo Andersson saw this normalized action as an opportunity.
Andersson created a series of "Light Vessels" that look like bulbous, misshapen light bulbs and are filled with water and set in the semi-darkened Osher Gallery at the American Swedish Institute. In the background, chill, meditative music plays. Visitors are encouraged to take out their smartphones and shine a light on the water-filled vessels, creating shadows on the wall.
"I really just wanted to provide like a safe space for people to kind of lose themselves in 'being,'" Andersson said. "Their experience is going to be so personal because it's like they are the light. The music's playing and different people are in there."
Her work is the centerpiece of the broader exhibition "Fluidity: Identity in Swedish Glass," on view through May 28, and with an opening party Friday from 6-9 p.m.
Andersson's vessels are also perched on shelves in the hallway leading to the Turnblad Mansion, where works by established glass artists such as Ingeborg Lundin, who designed for Sweden's Orrefors glasswork, and designer Ulrica Hydman Vallien, who worked with the Kosta Boda glasswork company, are on display.
ASI creates connections with household glass artists names such as Lundin, whose renowned "Apple," a giant glass apple she created in 1955, signified a softer form that broke with harsher shapes from the World War II era. ASI acquired much of its glass collection under the helm of ASI President Bruce Karstadt.
"Sweden has been a hotbed of glassmaking since the 1700s," ASI Director of Experience Ingrid Nyholm-Lange said. "It is in a part of Sweden south of Stockholm called Småland, and in this area there were multiple glass factories."
Although the glass kingdom took a hit in the '70s, as a result of globalization and cheaper products available elsewhere, glassworks companies such as Kosta, Boda and Åfors merged to form Kosta Boda AB.
Keep it glassy
Some of Andersson's glass works, such as her more functional pieces that also have inspirational messages printed on the bottom of them such as "I am loved," "I am enough," or in Swedish "tack" and "du är fantastisk," will be for sale at the gift shop.
Andersson moved to Sweden from the United States in 2017. She graduated with a master of arts degree from Konstfack, has shown at Galleri Duerr in Stockholm and lives in Småland. She grew up speaking Swedish with her parents at home and also works in neon.
"I kind of follow the glass," she said. "I'm thinking I might move to Gothenburg."
She always felt drawn to glass. Every year, her parents would go to their coastal summer home in Katrineholm, which was very close to Reijmyre Glasbruk, one of Sweden's oldest and still running glass studios.
"I would beg them to go and watch the glass blowers and get glass and stuff, from a very young age, like 4 or 5," she said.
She fell into glass serendipitously, when she was a pre-med student at Ohio State. She decided to take a glass blowing class, just for fun. The glass stayed with her more than the medicine.
"I think that a lot of healing can be achieved in the present moment, like especially if you experience different traumas, you're not normally in the present moment, because you're either like anxious that something's going to happen or you're like thinking about something that has happened," Andersson said. "Glass blowing provided that for me. I was forced to be in the present moment."
Fluidity: Identity in Swedish Glass
When: Feb. 1-May 28.
Where: American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Av. S., Mpls.
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed. & Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thu.
Cost: $6-$13. Free Thursdays after 3 p.m.
Info: asimn.org or 612-871-4907.
Artist tour of the exhibition on Thu. from 2-3 p.m.
Glass blowing demo on Sat. at 2 & 3 p.m. at Foci Minnesota Center for Glass Arts, 2213 Snelling Av. S., Mpls., $5-$10.