Special Exhibits

Main Gallery

Letters from Home
Luis Sahagun, Areej Almansory, Nisrine Boukhari & Aram Han Sifuentes

Exhibit Opens, Friday, April 21
Exhibit Closes on Sunday, Aug. 13

This exhibit is a collaborative contemporary art exhibit that brings together artists in Sweden and Chicago who have created original works interpreting a collection of early 20th century letters to Chicago immigrant Emil Olsson from his family in Sweden. This international exchange produced new contemporary artwork interpreting themes present in the Olsson letters that relate to the early Swedish American immigrant experience and the artists own experiences with immigration.

Read about this and other exhibits in Chicago in Travelmag.

Tattoo: Identity Through Ink

Exhibit Opening, Friday, Aug. 18, 6 p.m.
Exhibit Closes on Sunday, Nov. 26

From the Vesterheim Museum, this exhibit tells the story of why people have adorned their bodies with tattoos. It explores the global history of tattooing, from Otzi the Iceman to Indigenous tattoo rituals still in practice today. This global perspective then moves to Scandinavia, home to the world’s oldest continually operating tattoo shop and explores the rise of Neo-Nordic tattoos.

Raoul Wallenberg Gallery

Tilling the Past
Photography by Hilma Ljung

Exhibit Opens, Friday, Feb. 10
Exhibit Opening, Sunday, Feb. 26, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Exhibit Closes on Sunday, June 18

Between the years 1908 and the mid 1930’s armed with her 4×5 glass plate view camera, Hilma Ljung photographed the lives and land that surrounded her and her family in the small village of Svalöv. In an era where photography was largely presided over by men, Ljung shows us a mostly unseen perspective of rural Swedish life from the female’s point of view. Let us walk out of the darkroom and into the light to view Ljung’s pioneering photographs. 

The land around Svalöv, located in the southernmost region of Sweden, is home to some of the country’s best soil and climate for farming; so much so that the Coat of Arms for the region is a farmer sowing seed. Wheat, rye, barley, potatoes, oat and flax were all grown for market, with a vegetable garden, and chickens, for household use. A renowned dairy was eventually established on the property. Whey, a by-product to the butter and milk production, became feed for pig breeding, an activity which won Hilma’s family considerable acclaim; the King himself once descending upon Svalöv to admire the breeding “sires and sow’s.”

Ljung’s photographs parallel famed Swedish painter Carl Larsson in that her love and passion for her family and home, flow through her images with the same authentic pulse. Like Larsson who painted images of everyday activities, Ljung also chronicled everyday life with a deep and genuine passion. She reveals her family’s favorite location to pick berries. She takes us to a lake where one of her sons is fishing. Her image of a beautiful sunny winter day creates a yearning for a fireplace and tea. 

Prior to 1903 when the invention of what we know today as film (gelatin silver negative), photographic emulsion was made on glass plates. There were two formats. The wet plate collodion, discovered in 1851 by British inventor Frederick Scott Archer, and the gelatin dry plate negative discovered in 1871 by Richard Leach Maddox. Both of these glass plate formats have a light sensitive emulsion that is attached to the glass plate with a binder. One of the main reasons glass plate negatives mostly disappeared from the consumer market was because of the introduction of the much more user friendly, less fragile gelatin silver negative on celluloid roll film. Hilma photographed with gelatin dry plate glass negatives.

There is a beautiful and authentic simplicity attached to this story. A loving mother, a devoted wife, chronicling the life that surrounded her. People are drawn to the past. Ljung’s images are windows revealing a life that was, tilling the past of people’s lives.

Like summiting a mountain, Hilma has given us a new vantage point. One that helps us viewers see the history of photography through an exciting and unfamiliar lens. Thank you, Hilma, for sharing with us your perspective of the world you lived in.

“Winter Night”

The Spirit of Place: Earth is Home
Lithography by Kurt Seaberg

Exhibit Opening, Friday, June 23, 6 p.m.
Exhibit Closes on Sunday, Oct. 15

Kurt Seaberg is a Sami-American artist currently residing in Minnesota. He was born in Chicago, IL, and studied intaglio and lithography at the University of Minnesota. Nature has always been a theme and source of inspiration in his work and the particular spiritual qualities he finds there. He believes one of the tasks of an artist is to remind us where our strength and power lies – in beauty, community, and sense of place. Seaberg uses his art to connect with his Sami heritage and his father, who was an artist as well. This exhibit showcases Seaberg’s lithographs which connect you to natural, beautiful landscapes. 

Sponsors of our Special Exhibits: