RAM Talks Art: Inspiration for art can often come from where you least expect it

Sometimes when you see artwork or hear artists talk about their own art, it’s easy to assume they have always worked in their chosen medium. It must have been their calling—the one medium that spoke to them and they could speak through.


One interesting aspect you may not have heard about the artists in “HE & SHE: Vallien and Hydman-Vallien” is neither one of them started working in glass.

I had the rare opportunity to interview the artists while they were here in Rockford installing the current Rockford Art Museum (RAM) show and got some interesting tidbits while doing so.

It seems in this day and age, visual artists are inspired by musicians, musicians are inspired by actors and playwrights, and so on; there is so much crossover in the arts, you can’t separate the elements.

Bertil Vallien sat down with me to talk about his work. He sat down to tell the story of the pieces on display in “HE & SHE.”

If you’ve seen the show, you’ve seen the boats. I asked him how he decided what insertions to include in each piece.

To this, he responded, “Sometimes you have to let the story be told to you; you cannot decide what the story is.”

He said he likes the way David Bowie writes a song; Bowie takes all the words he is thinking about and writes them on little scraps of paper. He then puts all the scraps of paper in his hand, shakes them and throws them out on the table. Whatever order the words fall out in, is the direction the story takes.

This is Bertil’s inspiration for content direction.

A musician inspiring the way a glass artist works? Pretty amazing.

When I sat down to talk with the “SHE” side of things, Ulrica Hydman-Vallien had a very different take.

I asked Ulrica how she got her start working in glass, and her first response was, “I don’t love glass.”

Now wait, the woman who is known for contributing to the turnaround of an international company the size of Orrefors Kosta Boda doesn’t love glass?

I am confused.

Ulrica continued: “Painting is the way I express myself. My paintings are what I am thinking and feeling, what I have going on in my head. Glass is something I am good at—it’s the way I make money.”

So, in artists’ eyes, the best medium for expression is not necessarily what they are known for using. In fact, both Vallien and Hydman-Vallien started as potters. Both working in clay, they found opportunities to be commercially and artistically successful in glass.

Now, I’m not saying that perfecting technique doesn’t have something to do with their success—they are technicians in all they do.

However, take the opportunity to view artists in multiple media, and see if you like one more than another.

Do you like van Gogh’s oils, watercolors or sketches best? Do you like Degas’ sculptures or paintings best?

If you’re on your way to Rockford Art Museum to view “HE & SHE,” do you think Ulrica’s paintings are more expressive than her vases?

Something to think about.

Rockford Art Museum Education Director Elizabeth Dailing can be reached at edailing@rockfordartmuseum.org.

from the June 27-July 5, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!