The Odin’s Eye exhibit at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle’s oh-so-Scandinavian Ballard neighborhood is part of an annual Taste of Iceland event. It was also the event that launched my Reykjavik staycation in Seattle.
For years I avoided the Nordic Heritage Museum because I assumed it was a bunch of elderly Scandinavians displaying old black & white photos of their grandparents cutting down trees in the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. But it’s actually a quite well-designed museum that gives an kid-friendly presentation of the historical immigrant experience, including the conditions that drove residents of the various Nordic countries to America in the first place, the nature of their move west, and their contributions to local culture. One visit is sufficient for the main museum, but special events and exhibits of contemporary art from Nordic countries has drawn me back several times.
Odin’s Eye opened on October 9 as part of Taste of Iceland, a cultural exchange program sponsored by Iceland Naturally and a bunch of other Icelandic organizations that encourage tourism, together with KEXP and local Iceland-loving organizations like the Nordic Heritage Museum. The exhibit featured pieces that interpret Norse mythology by eight visual artists, four each from Iceland and the U.S.
I was most interested to see the work of Sindri Már, better known to me as the musician Sin Fang. I had heard that he worked on skate decks, and was curious to see if there would be skateboards mounted on the walls of the Nordic Heritage Museum. Alas, his paintings were on more traditional boards, but it was easy to see how his art would fit in skate culture.
As a former tarot reader, I was interested in the tarot deck designed by Kristín Ragna Gunnarsdóttir, but it was too small and mounted too high to capture my kids’ attention, and I didn’t get a chance to inspect it as thoroughly as I liked.
My daughters were more interested in the sculptures. My oldest got a kick out of the dead bird slippers on Lulu Yee’s ceramic Baldur. My youngest was fascinated by the golden ceramic beard of Odin.
A highlight for all three of us was Gunnella’s wry primitive paintings with their flat comic book colors, depicting mythological characters as modern Icelandic families in lopapeysa. The description cards were as humorous as the paintings:
Odin listens to his ravens describe all the news they gathered on their night flight throughout the world. Frigg is more interested in what the chickens are trying to say.
It’s a small exhibit, but well worth visiting, especially since admission includes the rest of the museum, and the other special exhibit going on right now, The Color of Time, Tod Gangler’s beautiful long-exposure and carbon printed photos of Ballard’s crustier side.
Here is what the museum has to say about Odin’s Eye:
Odin’s Eye art exhibit seeks to build an inspirational bridge between Americans and Icelanders as artists visually interpret the Norse Mythology through various mediums. Participating artists include Gunnella, Kristín Ragna Gunnarsdóttir, Sindri Már Sigfússon, Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir, Lulu Yee , Derek Weisberg, Pandora Andre-Beatty and Michael Linton Simpson. The exhibit is sponsored by Icelandair Cargo and Iceland Naturally.