Having lunch with Rockford Art Museum’s ‘HE & SHE’

I had the rare and distinct privilege of having lunch with the powerhouses (from the Swedish side of things) behind Rockford Art Museum’s (RAM) “HE & SHE.: The artists, Bertil Vallien and Ulrica Hydman-Vallien, and their friends from the Vida Museum, Barbro and Borge Kamaras, who have dedicated an entire museum to the work of Bertil and Ulrica. Their friendship and phenomenal working relationship is quite apparent.

The lecture was a window to both artists’ lives, their work and their passion. Their words, Bertil’s playing a harmonica, the photos from their personal lives, very personal, some may say, were a tremendous exposure of their souls and creative process.

“People tell me they enjoyed the lecture, and the two things they remember most are the photo of me in the snow and the cat,” Bertil laughed.

The photo in the snow was a nude shot, and the cat is a mummified homage to the conclusion of nine lives, which they unearthed from the floor boards when working on their home.

I am certain that when you see the exhibit those images will be the furthest thing from your mind. You will be entranced by the depth of the work, you will be creating the stories that go with each piece. The rich, deep blue walls will absorb you. You may even see yourself reflected in one of the boats.

Ulrica’s work, surrounded by pink and white walls, is the perfect contrast. Snakes, eggs and colors that conjure very unique stories will surround you.

Congratulations to the RAM for transforming their space for this exhibit, and for the future of the museum.

I can’t imagine having an experience like this again in my life. Talking, sharing and laughing with these artists as if we were old friends will be indelible.

Anne E. O’Keefe is executive director of the Rockford Area Arts Council.

from the April 4-10, 2007, issue

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