Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Last Days in Skagastrond

August 29th

This is my last day at the Nes residency. Tomorrow morning I leave Skagastrond for a short road trip before returning to Los Angeles on September 1st.

Last night the temperature dipped to 38 degrees and this morning there is an obstinate dusting of snow on the top of the mountain I climbed two weeks ago. It seems there is no time between summer and winter. The school children are bundled in hats and parkas and adults leave their cars running when they go into the gas station for morning coffee.

I have learned a great deal about the school system in Iceland from Aldis, a 15 year old girl who has been making paintings along side me in the studio several afternoons a week. We have grown quite fond of each other and I will miss her. She is self possessed and great fun with a wry sense of humor and excellent command of English. She didn’t study English in school until 5th grade but all of the youth culture activities, face book being the most important, are in English. She watches American TV shows, which are subtitled, but she turns the subtitles off.  All towns, no matter how small – Grimsey being an example – offer free education until age 16. Aldis’ grade level has 10 students, nicely proportioned at 5 boys and 5 girls.  Next year Aldis and her classmates continue their education by attending one of the regional schools in larger towns. The largest schools are in Akureyri, where Aldis will go, and Reykjavik. Parents pay for students to lodge in dorms and there is scholarship money for those without means. Many students live with family members. Most teenagers do continue with the last two years of high school although it is not compulsory.

I kid around with Aldis and she has quite a sharp whit. We talked about the painting of the shrimp with the words “ceci n’est pas une crevette” and I showed her Magritte’s iconic pipe painting. When she looked confused I explained that in part Magritte was pointing out that it was not a pipe, but a painting of a pipe.  The next day she made a painting and I said, “oh nice, is that a butterfly?” to which she answered “no, it is a painting of a butterfly.”

She gave me these stones.

I gave her this one from Greece because there are so few stars in Iceland in the summer.

Here is my studio wall before it all gets packed away.

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