Sacred to the Touch

Nordic and Baltic Religious Wood Carving

Thomas A. DuBois

  • Published: January 2018
  • Subject Listing: Scandinavian Studies; Art History / European Art
  • Bibliographic information: 216 pp., 40 color illus., 1 bandw illus, 7 x 10 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: New Directions in Scandinavian Studies
  • Contents

With near-mythical forests of birch and pine, the Nordic and Baltic countries boast a rich tradition of religious wood carving that is in many ways emblematic of their cultures. Sacred to the Touch examines the spiritual and intellectual projects of six twentieth- and twenty-first-century artists who have adapted and revitalized this tradition. Through interviews and analyses, folklorist Thomas A. DuBois explores the notions of continuity with the past that these artists seek to express through their art, examining the forest church of late Finnish artist Eva Ryynänen, the carvings of Norwegian Americans Phillip Odden and Else Bigton that decorate a planned replica of a stave church in Southern California, the medieval Catholic-rooted work of Lutheran Sister Lydia Mariadotter (Swedish), the grave markers and roadside figures of Algimantas Sakalauskas (Lithuanian), and the merging of Lutheran and pre-Christian traditions by Lars Levi Sunna (Sámi). With color photographs and detailed descriptions, Sacred to the Touch reveals the interplay of tradition with personal and communal identity that characterize modern religious carving in Northern Europe.
Thomas A. DuBois is the Halls-Bascom Professor of Scandinavian Studies, Folklore, and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of Lyric, Meaning and Audience in the Oral Tradition of Northern Europe and Nordic Religions in the Viking Age.

"Sacred to the Touch models a fresh approach to a pan-national, interdisciplinary means of studying material culture. It is exemplary in its analysis of 'micro-histories' that open up into deep areas of historical study."
-Patricia Berman, author of In Another Light: Danish Painting in the Nineteenth Century

"Thomas DuBois makes a meaningful contribution to the study of religious art in the contemporary world."
-Nancy L. Wicker, professor of art and art history, University of Mississippi

"This is a brilliant analysis of religion, art, nature, culture, folklore and history in Northern Europe. In erudite, yet accessible, introductions DuBois elegantly situates these artists and their works in the religious histories of their communities. This will appeal to a broad range of readers with interests in religion, art, the humanities and social sciences."
-Barbro Klein, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS), Uppsala

"Sacred to the Touch accomplishes an enthralling illumination of the conditions for artistic practice in twenty-first century civil society and adds to the scholarship of material culture."
-Lizette Gradén, Lund University and The Royal Armory, Skokloster Castle with the Hallwyl Museum

1. Eva Ryyntt!" ("Try! Continue!") and Continuity Rediscovered
4. Lars Levi Sunna: "Vt oaidnit" ("Take it as it is and see what happens") and Continuity Recovered
5. Algimantas Sakalauskas: Tikeimas ("Belief") < Tik j mas ("Just Walking") and Continuity Discovered
Works Cited