Hygge for the Holidays

Patricia Tomlinson, the Appleton Museum of Art Curator of Exhibitions, explores how art has the power to manage pain and bring about feelings of happiness and well-being. Tomlinson, a former professional archaeologist, joined the museum in 2016 after serving as curatorial staff in the New World Department at the Denver Art Museum.

This time of year, it is always nice to spend time with loved ones, cook holiday comfort food and honor cherished family traditions—in short, all things “hygge” (pronounced who-guh).

What’s hygge, you ask? It is a Danish word that encompasses concepts such as cozy and contented well-being, something Scandinavians know a lot about.

While northern climates lend themselves to
snuggling up with a book by the fireplace while
snow softly falls outside, what do you do if you live in Florida? It’s 75 degrees in December and there isn’t a snowflake in sight.

It’s important to remember that hygge is a feeling and that feelings of comfort can come from things that make you happy. Unsurprisingly, art is something that has been studied extensively as far as its psychological impact. There are many studies that show art has the power to manage pain and bring about feelings of happiness and well-being.

In short, art can totally be hygge.

One of the nicest things about art is that it’s completely interpretive as far as each viewer is concerned. What I mean by this is that everyone brings their own life experiences, values and culture into play when they observe art. Some people may love depictions of mothers and babies because it makes them think of their own children or grandchildren. Others are drawn to the meditative serenity of landscape paintings because it reminds them of a special vacation or a place they used to live, and so on. You get to choose what you like, and what you want to look at, and gravitate towards what is meaningful and makes you feel good. That’s most likely why prints of famous artworks sell so well. People want to capture the joy art brings and have it in their own homes.

In the bustle of the holidays, make time for yourself and experience hygge. Enjoy the season and be sure to include both enjoying art and giving it as gifts.

Visit appletonmuseum.org for more information and online offerings.
Appleton Museum of Art, 4333
E. Silver Springs Blvd., (352) 291-4455.

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