9/18

This week has brought with it the first snow of the season, and a gradual shift in energy. You can feel the town, which is so dependent on tourism, start to slow down. Stores are closing for the year and people are leaving for their holiday vacations. It rains harder every day, leaving little windows of time for me to scurry to the grocery store or to go for a short walk up the fjord in the lighter rain.

It is so odd to have nothing that I have to do all day- every day feels like a treasure; a rare day with no obligations, soon to be followed by another. I haven’t felt the itch to create yet, and I’m okay with that. I am still adjusting to this new, other-worldly place and trying to take things day by day, as the country and culture gradually revivals more of itself to me. I doubt I will create anything in two dimensions, instead, I am treating my time here as a time to research and create social exchanges that interest me.

Some of my “research'“…

The Barley Farm

When you drive over the fjord, the valley opens up before you. The landscape is purple and umber, shaped by glaciers, streams and time. In stark contrast, Móðir Jörð is a patch of green. Walking onto the farm, there are small planted trees that separate rows of fields that grow flowers, wheat, barley and kale. In Iceland, there are no pests and no need for pesticides.

I visited with three girls from the residency. It was amazing to see how excited all three of them (three girls with opposite backgrounds from different sides of the globe) were to be on a farm. Iceland is so barren, it is refreshing and comforting to be in a place where plants grow. We stepped into the greenhouse and we’re overwhelmed with the warm perfume of basil, tomatoes, parsley, zucchini and butternut squash. It takes being so fully removed from fresh produce to feel the profound impact of healthy plants and moist soil.

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Thunder Bread

Since arriving here, I have wanted to make Thunder Bread. In the geothermal regions of Iceland, it is common to use the earth as a slow cooking oven. In Mytvan, West Iceland, bread cooks in the earth in four hours. While snow fell in Seydisfjordur, I invited a group of residents to join me in West Iceland, where we dug and “planted” bread in the earth. While we waited for the bread to cook, we visited a local farm, sampled bread and smoked fish that had been steamed in the earth, walked through the moss covered lava fields, and walked atop an "Underground Bakery”,

 The Underground Bakery

The Underground Bakery

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We dug into the earth, revealing layers of clay that gradually increased in density and moisture. The earth was warm; steam began to rise out of our dirt oven and we warmed our hands from the cold by reaching into the earth. We dug with our hands, holding the warm earth tight between our palms and creating balls of clay that mirrored the dense bread we would soon pull from the earth.

Four hours and a meal of smoked fish later, we dug up our bread. We wiped away the warm, red clay that stuck to the pot and opened the metal lid. Steam rose out, perspiration warming our cold faces. The bread from the earth was sweet, moist and thick.

Hverir, a field at the base of steaming hills in the Mytvan region of West Iceland, is sprinkled with boiling mud pools (made from volcanic ash- blubbering and splashing metallic mud) and steam vents (that hiss as they steam, releasing more sulfur into the thick, smelly air).

This was my second visit to Hverir, and I found it just as profound. I can’t help but think of the constant parallel of hot and cold that this country balances.

 The sulfuric white earth fades quickly to a deep, warm red clay just inches bellow the surface.

The sulfuric white earth fades quickly to a deep, warm red clay just inches bellow the surface.

The Sheep Roundup

Once a year, young and old men alike wake up early in the morning and drive up to the top of the Fjords. Together, they weave their way across the steep hillsides in waves, attempting to heard the wild sheep down to the shelter of a farm. The process is exhaustive and time consuming. I joined for the day as we chased sheep out of their home territory down to gated pastures, where they will be safe and warm all winter.

The sheep round up takes place all week, across Iceland. In a country with a more sheep then people, the round up can take days. Teams of volunteers wear bright yellow vests and communicate with walky-talkies as they scan the fjords for sheep.

  With the sheeps herded to farms, the valleys are left to the Icelandic Ponies.

With the sheeps herded to farms, the valleys are left to the Icelandic Ponies.

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Harvesting Sunshine (Energy from Photosynthetic Algae, The oldest and Most Essential Organisms on Earth)

I have spent the last week starting my own “garden” in the front yard of the residency. Iceland is the ideal climate for moss and algae- it grows everywhere: poking out of the cement sidewalk, growing on car windows, covering fields of lava, and growing up the sides of houses. What appears to be grass from a distance is actually soft, fluffy moss.

Early this week I took a sample of algae from the glacial waterfalls that flow down the side of the fjord to meet the sea. By hanging them outside, I am able to utilize sunlight (that grows shorter every day) to grow bag after bag of algae. If you want to read more about it, click here.

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Every day here, I continue to be blown away by beauty that surrounds me. After cloudy mornings and all night rain storms, I walk along the water and look at this beautiful place, with colorful houses by the water, nestled in-between the fjords that glisten with waterfalls.


7/24

 Roots from the garden

Roots from the garden

Earlier this week a summer storm passed through the Danish Jetland. All day the air was heavy and dark in anticipation. Around 5 o'clock it began to pour, not for long, but long enough to release the energy that was building up in the sky. 

Lummert is a Norwegian word, referring to the specific building of pressure in the sky that comes before a storm. Unlike humidity, lummert speaks to a building tension that has not yet, but will soon burst. It is something that hangs heavily in the sky, reminding you that soon a storm will crack. 

I have been thinking about this powerful energy in relationship to my time here. Every day starts off good; I run, explore, cook, paint and write. But as the day grows to a close, I can feel the anxiety building up inside me. It bubbles up, wanting to come out, to crack the facade of a productive day, reminding me that I have been alone for a week, two weeks, one more week to go. I feel lummert every day, riding on the very edge of explosion. Usually a phone call will start the storm. One moment I am okay, and the next, the weight of the day folds over me. Not allowing me to combat fear with productivity. 

 

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Day 10: I found the woods.

As I sat outside in the storm, watching the rain pour out onto the flat, dry landscape, I recognized lummert. It has been building every day since I arrived here, combined with the anxiety of post-grad and the fear of leaving the city that I have made my home- the capital of the art world- for a remote and empty place that I do not know or like. I have been hovering right at the edge of break down every day.

I feel exposed in this flat land, I am disconnected, I am drifting around with a long list of things I could do but no incentive to work. Rather, I have spent my days trying to find something that will interest me. But now that I have recognized the lummert, I can channel inspiration from it-- from the storm of anxiety, fear and loneliness that is building up inside me; that I feel the weight of right now. A heavy energy that drags me down, exhausting me from the weight I am carrying. 

The storm broke and it poured for a few hours. The sky was dark. After, the evening felt light again. The thirsty land drank up the water and before long, it was as if nothing had happened. 

 

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I spent the night sketching and remembering. I filled a sketchbook with my brave Anna, who I have watched grow up and into an adult from a distance, opposed to lummert. She is going into the darkness, challenging it, and confronting it. 

The painting was fast, a manifestation of the storm I felt riding on my shoulders. 

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Aarhus

My storm of furious painting came and went in a few short days. On Wednesday I traveled to Aarhus to clear my mind and see a dear friend from New York. The change of pace was much needed. It felt so good to be back in a city. At the end of the day, I was already feeling the lummert building up inside me, I was going to go home in the morning, I would be isolated again, accompanied by the fear of inactivity and the lack of creativity. I felt pathetic; afraid to go back. 

Install shots from the museum

As hard as it was to come back to the country side, things have gotten much better. I came home, installed my show, and left again for a weekend trip to Aalborg. I saw two amazing shows in the city that reignited some of my ambitions that had been dulled by the hot sun and quiet days. I had no idea how critical it is for me to be near a city, to be surrounded by other people producing work. 

Kaarina Kaikkonen- toilet paper installation (hung), found household items and T shirts from the community. Note: landscape and figure.

Now that I am back I don't feel as much panic or fear about being alone and far away from everything I know. It has opened up my day in many ways. I don't feel the need to familiarize myself with the community around me or to spend time with other people, all of which was a misguided assumption I made when I arrived. I have accepted what this place is, it is a place to reflect and to pause. If I know what it is I won't try to change it. I can accept the discomfort. I came into the residency hungry to learn from this new place, but that was my mistake. Now that I have no expectations I can adjust to where I am; my time here is less about place and more about my identity as an artist when everything familiar is stripped away.