Saturday, March 30, 2013

Last days in March

Fish Drying in Saudakrouker

Saudakrouker has a rather large fishing business. Along the edge of the water are wooden fish drying racks – there must be an acre of them. Heads are separated and hung in a different section from the bodies. The only wild mammals in Iceland are the Icelandic foxes and the insects, of which there are few and no mosquitoes, don’t seem interested in saltwater fish.  The fish hang out in the open unmolested by varmints. Industrial scale, clean, practical and rustic all at the same time.

The smell is pungent but not rotten.

A Limitless Supply of Beauty

Teaching in an Alien Tongue

Tarrvi, a graphic artist from Estonia, gave a community printmaking workshop in the evening. The participants included four local residents and a French artist. He began with a brief “talk” about printmaking, using what were at hand, a cork trivet and a carved woodblock, as props to describe the relief method. His English is halting at best and the participants, Icelandic and French, had varying degrees of English proficiency, the highest being not very. This meant Tarrvi used the simplest of terms and short, fundamental sentences to explain and instruct. He also relied on a lot of gestures and demonstration, each idea accompanied by a descriptive action. As he led the group nodded in understanding. Hobbled by layered language barriers, it was remarkable to watch how uncomplicated and effective his teaching was.

The recipe was few words and simple language with lots of showing and acting.

The old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” was brought to life. How fitting.


One of the artists, Katelyn Clark ( is a classically trained musician specializing in Medieval and Renaissance music. She also plays contemporary music and composes for the medieval Organetto.
This week she gave a concert in the local church. She plays the Organetto by balancing it on her knee and compressing the bellows on one side while playing the tiny keyboard on the other. The keys determine which pipes are opened and the pressure on the bellows determines volume. That’s the simple explanation, however Katelyn has developed a technique where she controls the airflow in ways that create new, vibrating pitches. She played a medieval piece then one of her own compositions. Listening to her piece was like hearing the wind, waves, birds, and beach pebbles pulling back from a wave all in natural conversation. At one point it sounded as if the midnight auroras were singing.
Here is her instrument, looking just like a tiny medieval church.

Thursday March 28th

Nes held its monthly open studio this afternoon. For a few hours local residents, and some from as far as Reykjavik, wandered through our spaces. 

Studio Wall

Ollie, who grew up in Skagastrond and is in his late 60’s, looked at the maps and launched into a story about Iceland and its history. He remembered as a young child sitting in the main room with extended family in the evenings and listening to his grandfather read the sagas and tell stories. Ollie feels that the reason Iceland remained independent from Denmark is because no matter how rustic the life style, everyone in Iceland learned how to read. The entire small, mostly rural population from the 16th century on was literate.

It was interesting to see how the drawings and maps triggered his sense of memory and national history.

My Work

Today, Saturday the 30th, is my last day in the studio.

One of the first things I did when I arrived was to put a map of Iceland on the studio wall and then trace the large school map that belongs to Nes. I used 18 pieces of 11 x 14 paper that I will reassemble in my studio at home.

I like the way geographic and geological information, when traced, can become drawing. It’s not coping because the function of the original is never in play. Nor is it a drawing of a map. It is like a footprint, and I imagine as I trace, walking the land.

Wallace Steven’s poem “Anecdote of the Jar” comes to mind when I think about distributing rocks from foreign territory in the Icelandic landscape.  When placing a jar on  a Tennessee hill, Stevens sees that “The wilderness rose up to it,” and “It took dominion everywhere.” 

Here are the thirteen stones that will be placed along the way as I travel from Northern Iceland around the east, down through the southern coast and finally to the airport on the western Raykjanes peninsula. The stones come from Greece, Mongolia, NYC, Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, California and Lithuania.

Each stone has had its portrait painted and its information recorded.
This stone is from the Greek island Samos and was found on Balos Beach.

Here are more examples of work I have done since coming to Nes.
Linoleum Prints

Stone Portraits

Below are two of my favorite daily drawings.

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