The Hulder

Huldufolk is the name of the art exhibition at Jackson Flats that these three pieces have been made for. The Hulder are a part of the folklore of Scandinavia, living within and embodying the landscape and human interaction with place. The Hulder can be generous or vengeful, in accordance with how well treated they have been - just as Minnesota will care for us in accordance with how well we tend to healing our natural and cultural surrounds.

A Troll crouches to eat a fish near the Stone Arch Bridge, crossing over the great Mississippi river.

A Troll crouches to eat a fish near the Stone Arch Bridge, crossing over the great Mississippi river.

This was a fun body of work to gnaw on. I don’t do a lot of representational painting, but the characters I know from lore and place compelled me to work with specific sites around the Metro, revealing their ‘hidden folk’ from under a bridge, icicle or stone. I know these places, and have seen their hidden giants firsthand, but I also recognize at the same time that they are not all mine to superimpose mythology upon - they belong to others for whom the local lore is much older and indigenous to place.

I feel connected to the Earth in these natural settings, and I cannot come from anywhere but where I’ve been, and so my story and vision reflects those peculiarities. Before starting, I spoke with a friend from the Faroese Islands to get a first-hand interpretation of what the Hulder were in his experience. He said that at one point in time, they were real people who lived in and among the rock faces and wild places. They became so much apart of the landscape that they disappeared into it, but could still be seen if one knew how to look. Later they were used as cautionary tales to keep children close to home and away from the sea. Now no one will tell you they believe, but they do.

Ice Giants congregate where the Minnehaha Falls come crashing down to creek, moving in slow motion.

Ice Giants congregate where the Minnehaha Falls come crashing down to creek, moving in slow motion.

There are lots of things that are hidden in plain sight, not just in nature, but in our human environs as well. We are only equipped to respond to what we’ve been trained to see, but sometimes events conspire to thrust new and unexpected information to the fore. There is so much static, so much noise going on around us at all times - how to sort out the truth among everything competing for attention at any given moment - what is important to our narrative? I think there are a lot of ways one could interpret Huldufolk, not all of which are consistent with the truths hidden safely inside of the folklore.

The cliffs of the St.Croix River conceal faces in the rocky crags - stone-faced ancestors looking back at us.

The cliffs of the St.Croix River conceal faces in the rocky crags - stone-faced ancestors looking back at us.

Thank goodness for children, who will always breath new life into stories of Giants, Trolls, Elves and the like, through their intuitive and true belief in the magical. My kids see nature spirits everywhere and I encourage that interaction because I want them to have a direct and experiential relationship with the land and with lore. Coincidentally, just after this show opens, I’m starting a series of classes on the Runes at Norway House, taught by folklorist Kari Tauring. The Runes themselves are extracted from experiences with nature, and are a vehicle for poetry - the poetry of a people responding to place.

With all the fuss ensuing around the show and afterward, one might think that the Hulder wanted to remain hidden, and that they themselves caused all the mischief just to have their likenesses concealed from human gaze again - as would be typical of Trolls in general. Such an interesting twist.