Dear Decorah area friends and especially Vesterheim Friends, I am writing this letter to you with a very sad and heavy heart. Sigmund Aarseth, my artistic soul mate in Norway, has passed from this world into the arms of our heavenly Father, a tragic and unexpected loss.
I first met Sigmund in the 1960s when he came to Decorah at the invitation of Marion and Lila Nelson, who were the first directors at Vesterheim. In the years since then, Sigmund has taught numerous workshops in traditional folk art rosemaling, and more recently in the fine arts of "Plein air" painting and drawing at Vesterheim.
He has literally touched and influenced hundreds of devoted workshop students, many of them gold medalists in the Vesterheim permanent collection. However, Sigmund will probably best be remembered for the stunning murals designed and co-painted with artist and colleague, Sallie Haugen DeReus of Pella. These murals are located in both the Amdahl-Odland Heritage Center and the Westby-Torgerson, Bruening Visitor Center at Vesterheim.
They feature decorative stenciling, rosemaling and images depicting life in Norwegian culture, folk tales, religious and agriculture days in Norse history. They are stunning indeed. I encourage you to view them, if you have not done so.
I cannot think of any one person who has dedicated and committed their life to preserving and linking the Norwegian folk art traditions to Vesterheim than Sigmund Aarseth. At the news of his death, I went to his book, "Sigmund Aarseth; Norway painted in light and color." What a treasure of artworks and what a wonderful memory of seeing Norway through his heart and eyes. This book is available at the Vesterheim gift shop.
Also, we reminisced about and will never forget his invitation to visit he and his wife, Ingeborg, in Valdres, Norway. We toured and viewed first hand the many places in and around Valdres where he frequently painted on location.
Sigmund has left an artistic legacy of great importance to all of us, especially, those of Norwegian descent. His lively, engaging, creative enthusiasm and unpretentious personality is beautifully expressed as the heart and soul of the natural world in Norway. Color, shape, texture and light are transformed into visual poetry. Sigmund's artwork portrays his place, his spirit and the artistic spirit of his land and people.
Tusen Takk, Sigmund. An amazing gift to all of us. God Bless your memory and life. Love from your friend and artistic brother.