Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Interview with Artist Sol Kjøk

Lillehammer native Sol Kjøk traveled the world to study painting and art history before planting her flag in New York City in 1996. Last year, she launched .NO—a nonprofit gallery dedicated to giving Nordic artists exposure to the arts scene in the big apple. Here's what Sol had to say about the venture:

Viking: How has your gallery done since its opening last February?
Sol Kjøk: We’re getting so much attention and so many people are interested in showing. There are also lots of people at the openings. We get a crowded house each time. I’m very happy to be able to do this. There’s so much potential but there’s also so much more work than I realized when I started this.

V: What's your goal for the gallery?
SK: Initially I wasn’t planning to open a permanent gallery. I was offered access to the space because the owner of the gallery building is also the landlord for my studio here in Brooklyn. He offered me to make an exhibit in the storefront.

I thought this would be an opportunity for me to pull in my colleagues from Norway who hadn’t shown in New York yet. So I started inviting my friends, and that just snowballed, because all Norwegian artists want to show in New York.

The exhibit I was initially planning to do grew into a three-month project, and then the North Star series. After I put all that effort into creating the space, I realized what a gold nugget this is, how much interest there was, both from artists and the audience. I just said to myself, “I can’t let go of this. I have to really take advantage of this opportunity.” So then I decided I would do whatever I could to turn this into a permanent platform for artists from elsewhere and with a specific focus on Norway and Scandinavia, since that’s where I have so many colleagues whose work I am really interested in.

V: Where did the gallery's name come from?
SK: When I initially started to do this temporary project, I had less than a week to put it together. It was so rushed because I was offered the space on October 7, 2010, and then there was this major grant deadline on October 15, in order to get money to help us pull off this first project. So I only had that week to invite everybody and decide everything to get the paperwork done. There were about 28 Norwegian artists that were part of the first series. I sent out an email to all of them saying we have to decide on a name, what are we going to call this place? I got several suggestions and I put it to a democratic vote among the initial participants. The name .NO was proposed by an artist collective who participated in the first series, and that’s what most people really liked. It means many things; it’s the domain name of Norway and it’s also “now.”

You can read more about Sol Kjøk in this month's issue of Viking!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

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