The exhibition “Ormagull og selshamur” (“Worm gold and seal hide”—a reference to myths in Icelandic folk stories), featuring wood carvings by Ingibjörg Helga Ágústdóttir, opens in the National Museum of Iceland today.
Ágústsdóttir calls her artwork “fairytale boxes” and each of them tells the story of a different fairytale, which include classics such as The Worm of Lagarfljót Lake and The Seal Hide.
The legend says that if a worm is put on top of gold, the gold supply grows but so does the worm. That is how the monstrous worm which inhabits the lake Lagarfljót in east Iceland came to be.
As for the seal hide, it was believed that seals are beautiful maidens in disguise. Every now and then, the seal maidens would shed their skin on the beach and dance naked in the night.
If a man stole one of the hides, the seal maiden would become trapped in the human world and the thief could make her his wife. Although the maiden might learn to love her human husband and offspring, she would always long for her life in the ocean.
The Icelandic national costume and traditional wood carvings, along with stories and fairytales which were recited to Ágústsdóttir by her grandmother were the inspiration for her fairytale boxes. Her interest in handicrafts arose when she began studying the Icelandic national costume.
Nature and the surroundings of her hometown Stykkishólmur in south Iceland also has an impact on her work. Ágústsdóttir (born 1963) studied fashion design in London and Copenhagen before returning to Stykkishólmur where she lives and works.