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Oregon, Ill., artist painting Rockford-area landscape

August 3, 2011

Mary Salstrom, a resident of Oregon, Ill., has been painting the Rockford-area landscape in the summer for 35 years since she graduated from Pratt Institute’s renowned School of Art. More recently, she has begun to paint the landscape of southeastern Sweden, from where many Swedes immigrated to the Rockford area. She is now pursuing new locations for landscape paintings in the Rockford area.

Salstrom is a long-standing member of the American Scandinavian Foundation. In Sweden, she has been painting the Tranas area; her great-great grandparents lived at a farm, Gissnabo, near Tranas and later immigrated to northwestern Illinois in 1853. Salstrom’s great-great grandparents built the first grist mill where the current Tranas Energi buildings are located.

Salstrom’s historical advisers in Sweden have found old maps of the grist mill plus family records of ownership of Gissnabo and births of the eight children. Mary is painting the Gissnabo farm and other landscapes comparable to those in her hometown near Rockford. Her great-great grandfather founded the main general store, which acted as a bank, a post office and central business, along with a dozen other Swedes who had come to Rockford.

The two regions have a number of points of interest. For example, the Tranas farmland has large stones left by glacier movement and shallow soil in comparison to the deep, rich and flat farmland of the Rockford area. Then, there is the broad Rock River and the large earthen dam at Oregon, Ill., which had a rotor to power more than a dozen manufacturing plants, comparable to the much smaller river and millpond in Tranas, which had water wheels to power the Salstrom descendant’s grist mill and factories that followed.

The barns are much larger in the Tranas area for wintering cattle and produce, as compared to Illinois and Wisconsin barns. The barn-shaped houses are different than most similar houses in the Midwest. These examples of indigenous architecture are included in Mary Salstrom’s paintings. Also, her paintings of the Jarrett Prairie, Byron, Ill., and its extensive ecological preservation as a remainder of the great American prairie is being compared to similar farmland where “reps,” a yellow flowering plant harvested for vegetable oil, cover the fields.

As to Borgholm, on the island of Oland, east of Kalmar, Mary Salstrom is painting the famous Borgholm Castle, the gardens of Solliden, the summer palace of the royal family; the windmills among 400 remaining; and the historic town and coastline of Borgholm with its indigenous, classical wooden houses.

From the Aug. 3-9, 2011, issue

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