I've been in Reykjavík for a few weeks now and have been taking my walks and visiting my favorite places. I'm always thrilled with the chance to see something again, something that I love. I guess there is a part of me that knows I may not see certain things again, so an opportunity to return always feels special. Many of the places I've been revisiting I revel in because of their inherent silence and accompanying ambient sound: the old cemetery, Hólavallagarður, the outdoor sculpture, "Þúfa," by Ólöf Nordal, the coastline along the western part of the city, Grótta lighthouse. I have made pilgrimage-like walks to these places, taking in what I see and what I hear, and don't hear. All of these places have a silence to them that I crave and also include sounds like snow falling, wind in the trees, seabirds, and rippling water that add subtle textures to the experience.
Since I'm far away from the U.S. this winter, I have just a few books on my side table and at my desk. If there was no weight limit on the plane I would have brought a suitcase just for books! Regardless, I still have a stack, and my winter reading list...
It's a little late, but here is my annual favorites post... You may notice this time many of my favorites are about home, which stems from the body of work I created for my solo show, "I Live Here Now" last year. These are the things I was reading, listening to, and studying while I made that work, along with a few other things that just fascinated me.
"The artist’s memory is a dangerous, necessary thing. Never disavow what you see and remember—it’s your brilliant stock-in-trade: remembering, and making something out of it. Artists remember the world as it is, first, because you have to know what it is you’re reinventing; that’s a rule, perhaps the only one: being cognizant of your source material." - Hilton Als
Along with the incredible landscape here in Iceland, I am also influenced by many Icelandic artists. This trip I've been looking closely at Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval, who is considered to be the most important Icelandic painter. I think my acute interest in observation and documenting what I see in photographs lead me to Kjarval's work which is, at its heart, observational and very personal. When I look at his paintings I understand what he saw and why he portrayed the environment as he did. Each painting feels like an intimate moment captured in color, points of light, and texture. One of the first places I visited when I returned to Reykjavík was Kjarvalsstaðir, a museum devoted to his work. It was both thrilling and calming to see his work in person after only viewing it online. The works tend to be fairly large and the details of texture and brushstrokes are not visible on the computer screen. I was also taken with the locations depicted in several pieces because they are places I have witnessed first-hand. For this post I have paired Kjarval's paintings from the museum with my own photographs taken of the same places.
Finally, when I visited the museum I discovered the top painting was signed on February 10, 1959 and realized February 10 was coming up. So, on February 10, 2015 I returned to the museum just to look at that painting on its birthday. It felt very special to do this.
Glacier Vision, undated
my image of a glacier
From Þingvellir, 1939-40
my image of Þingvellir
Lómagnúpur Mountain, 1944
my image of Lómagnúpur Mountain, from the other side
As I mentioned on Tuesday, I'm developing work for my Sienna solo show here in Iceland. One of the pieces I'm working on will be made with pearls, which I am completely taken with right now. I love their luminous quality and the many shapes they come in, but I also love them for the way they are formed. A pearl begins with some kind of irritant and, over time, layer upon layer of iridescent calcium carbonate builds up around this irritant as a defense mechanism. I see pearls as glorified callouses or scars, forms of protection. They also represent years of hard work and tenacity, and when complete, they are a rare, beautiful thing. I see pearls as a symbol of the experience of life.
My pearl piece will be made using a variety of white and off-white pearls, both real and fake, round and natural, that I've been collecting for years. And this brings me to the most exciting part: I would also like to collect pearls from you.
packages of dirt from 23 of my closest friends
We Walk on the Same Ground
Last year I made the piece "We Walk on the Same Ground" for my exhibition "I Live Here Now" in which I asked my closest friends to send me dirt from where they live. I love the participatory aspect of this piece and I believe it makes it more compelling and personal. It's a combination of the experiences of dear friends and me. I would like to try this concept once again now by combining my own pearls with pearls from friends, family, colleagues, strangers, and people who like my work. I like the idea of the materials coming from a myriad of sources from places far and wide. They will bring beautiful, complex layers to the work, and mimic the process of how a pearl itself forms.
So, please join me now... please send me one pearl. It can be white or off-white, real or fake, round or natural, something you own already, or something you purchase for this piece. It can be a bead or it can be whole. You can mail it to me in the U.S. to the following post office box:
P.O. Box 1895
Richfield Springs, NY 13439
If you would like to participate please mail your pearl to me by March 4, 2015. I will return to my studio to make this piece shortly after that and will collect all the pearls then. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at email@example.com. I do hope you will consider participating!
I'm very happy to be back at SÍM in Reykjavík. I'm in my "old" space with that spectacular view of the sea, and given the winter weather, it's even more variable than over the early summer when I was here last. I love working in this spot. I love watching the clouds roll in and listening to the waves crash against the break wall.
I'm working on two new pieces for my upcoming solo exhibition at Sienna Gallery as well as developing the overall concept for the show, writing my artist statement, planning logistics, and so on. However, I won't make either piece until I return to the U.S.; this is just the research/thinking/writing part of my process. In addition to this work, I'm also taking my long walks, working with new found objects, making small drawings with horse hair, creating more videos, and, of course, shooting many, many photographs.
image of my view when I started writing this post
image still from a video made in Blönduós
horse hair drawing in my sketchbook
my latest finds from a low tide walk along the sea
image of my view when I was done writing this post,