Local artist Leslie Landis is not Norwegian nor did she know a lot of Norwegian people growing up, still she recently won second place in a national Norwegian American folk art exhibition.
The red ribbon the Sherman resident took home was for a work she entered into the Vesterheim contest at the National Norwegian American Museum and Heritage Center. This judged exhibition was on display from June 8-July 28.
“I wanted to compete to get feedback from the judges,” Landis said. “I wanted them to help me. In this area, there are not a lot of Norwegian art teachers and I wanted to get critiqued so I can get better.”
Landis won the award in the rosemaling category for a tankard painted in the Hallingdal style.
“I was surprised because I was not expecting to win second place,” she said. “The pinnacle of the art world is the Vesterheim gold medal, but it’s not like the Olympics where you train and compete in a world competition. You have to put in pieces and get ribbons for several years. The judges give you feedback and the ribbons give you points. When you have a certain amount of points, you win the gold.”
Developed about 200 years ago in Norway, rosemaling in Norway is regional and can have many styles and characteristics.
“The art goes back more than 500 years,” Landis said. “In the 1600s, farmers in Norway would do the art to brighten their farms during the cold dark winter. There are a lot of memories surrounding Norwegian art and how it was passed on.”
Landis has been doing art off and on since she was a child. She said that her mother knew she liked art and thought that Landis would enjoy learning Norwegian art.
“It’s been more off than on,” she said. “I went to school, had kids, and had a career. I have been doing it most intensively for about 10 years. For me, it’s like a disease because it’s just so captivating and consuming.”
Landis learned to rosemal from a woman who lived near her when she was growing up. From then on, the seed was planted and she was devoted to art.
“It has taken over a lot of my life,” she said.
This is Landis’s third year entering the Vesterheim competition, but her first time placing. She is a member of the Wildflowers of Texoma, a local art group that specializes in tole painting and folk art styles of many countries, including Norway, Sweden, Germany, Russia, England, Mexico and more.
“You have to have a lot of spirit and dedication,” she said. “When it comes to art, you have to take it on yourself to find ways to get better. Be alert and forceful to get over the roadblocks. Study and go to seminars. You have to draw from deep down and know it’s something you want to do and then you have to do it.
The Vestergeim exhibition also included woodworking, knifemaking and weaving categories. Vesterheim has some of the decorative and folk art from around the nation.
“This year’s exhibition included more than 100 examples of beautiful folk art by fantastic contemporary artists from all over the country,” Vesterheim Exhibitions Manager Zach Row-Heyveld said in a press release. “It’s a great way to see what’s happening in the world of Norwegian-inspired folk art today.”
Judges this year for rosemaling were gold medal rosemaler Donna Benson of Washington Island, Wisconsin, gold medal rosemaler Pam Rucinski of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and ArtHaus Director Shannon Dallenbach-Durbin of Decorah, Iowa.