Friday, April 18, 2014

sample collection.

fur hat keeps out the wind...

from Refrain, Einar Braggi

While the earth sleeps
wrapped in its white cloak
the cheerful warmth moves
with the dream of spring through its veins.

I do not hear their murmuring
but feel it in my blood
a silent expectation
of a green needle beneath the snow.


It's the nearing end of winter in northern Iceland. Some days are warm, and some days the howling wind seems to be conspiring to blow my tiny rental car off the icy cliff and into the ocean. Spring is arriving, and today the sun pours into the studio from the skylight above.... at least in this moment. It might be snowing or raining in a another moment. 

I spent the last two weeks exploring this region while photographing and collecting video and sound clips. In the evenings, I read Icelandic poetry and occasionally, a dense yet interesting book on sound arts (Listening to Noise and Silence).  I have also enjoyed cooking and eating Icelandic specialties, such as lamb, Graflax, and what seems like endless varieties of cultured dairy products. I'm not yet sure how I will live without this


I return my car tomorrow and have about 12 days to work in the studio, plan for my upcoming exhibition, and do research related to the Icelandic spar, which has become the unifying element in most of the new work.

I have also seen some really great exhibitions here in Akureyri. I am impressed with the vibrance of the contemporary art scene and the community of artist who live and work here. There have been new shows opening every weekend of April. 

Kristján Pétur Sigurðsson at Populus Tremula

Delicious, Dagrun Matthiasdottir at the Center for Visual Arts

...and her amazing food table, which related to the exhibition.

I also stumbled upon the wonderful Manarbakka, which is a small home museum on a dairy farm. Adalgeir Egilsson, the farmer who is also an amazing collector of housewares, china, match boxes, photographs, and everything else you could imagine, houses his collection in a small yellow house that was moved from the neighboring town of Husavik to his beautiful farm on the ocean. He recently built a historically accurate turf house on site to house more of his collection. He unlocked the museum for me and patiently brought me through every room, telling me about the things he was most excited about and answering my questions. The colors and light were quiet beautiful, and I photographed with both my iPhone and with my film camera, because I couldn't resist it. 

The museum and the carving that greeted me. Adalgeir made it from driftwood.

It's important to keep one's mustache out of one's tea.

In the turf house.

Ship photos that would come in the cigarette boxes. 

Family photos. 

Cats in several windows.... a man after my own heart. 

And of course, the landscape itself is amazing and inspiring on it's own. Lava fields, steaming mountains, blue sulphurous water, boiling mud.... Iceland is a weird and wonderful place. 

Steaming blue water. 



Boiling mud is as weird as it sounds.


from Dimmuborger, Jokobina Sigurdarottir

Dimmuborger - Rocks of Darkness
Mystery and magic are your name.
I know that spectres on winter evenings
haunt the starlit snowdrifts there.
But tonight, triumphant spirits
of life are working their charms,
while light-elves are dancing
on leaves of birch, on tufts of thyme
and heather, and airy shadows
play among the dips and rocks. 
Deep in the caves the old ghosts
of winter darkness dart their eyes,
grimace at the white magic,
toy with snow fissures.
And the ode to summer is blended
with tones of anguish, joy and weeping,
fear of death, the dream of life:
Dimmuborger, first and last. 


Speaking of Dimmuborgir, I learned that there is also a metal band in Norway of the same name. This I learned from these three ladies, who are doing a residency on Hrisey Island. I went out to the island and met them, and we decided to travel together for the day (as they do not have a car). We had a lovely time taking photographs and floating in the Myvatn Nature Baths while we briefly got to know each other. A fun diversion from my solitary time.

Sanna, from Finland

 Anne, from Germany

Kerttuli, from Finland

Back in the studio, I have been experimenting with a few things. More with the Icelandic Spar and the scanner, as seen in the test prints on the wall behind my desk. I've also been working on some animated scanner pieces involving spar and light.  I was never able to resolve my film scanner issue, so I am improvising with the older scanner in the studio. Scanning my negatives will have to wait until I return. 

I also collected soil samples, water and sulphur from Myvatn's geothermal area and have been experimenting with creating paint from these substances and scanning. Nothing I've made has moved me yet on this front, but I will continue to experiment. I did, however, become interested in putting the glass plates of mud on the overhead projector. 

Hub of activity


It's 4pm now, still many hours of daylight to enjoy here in the north, as the light lingers in the sky now until after 10pm. Now that I've posted this update, perhaps it's time to take a walk, clear my head and plan for this next phase of studio-focused work. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Every 15 minutes until midnight, the church bells ring in Akureyri, Iceland. This beautiful church sits on a hill above the Gestavinnustofa Gilfélagsins, or the Guest Artist Studio of the Gil Society, which is where I am in residence until the 1st of May. After a 3 day journey, I arrived here the evening of the 1st of April. The town was covered in a thick white fog upon my arrival. Fortunately, spring has since arrived, just as it has back home in Vermont - and so now I can see the mountain across from Eyjafjordur. 

Akureyri, April 2014
Studio/apt is tucked in the hillside of the white building, church above.

The first days have been spent settling in - groceries (shopping was an experience unto itself!), unpacking, catching up on sleep, setting up the studio, and meeting other artists. I have had to remind myself that this is different from traveling; its more like moving, but for a month. I am trying to wrap my mind around the concept of actually relaxing and having more space and time than I've had in a long while. It's no overstatement to say that these past few years have been a wildly intense, full and emotionally charged, filled with experiences that have been painful, beautiful, challenging, inspiring... sometimes simultaneously, and so having this month to finally pause, reflect and make new work is a gift. 


I love Icelandic cultured dairy. Sigh. 

This is not something I felt when I set up the studio....

To start, I had several mishaps setting up my studio. I bought a foldable overhead projector (thanks Vermont State Surplus) for my installation at the Populus Tremula, and when I plugged it in, it immediately blew the circuit in the studio - and both of my replacement bulbs. Fortunately, a local artist is lending me his for the month. The next and more upsetting issue was when I plugged in my borrowed flatbed film scanner. When I plugged it in, it would not turn on.

This was concerning, given how most of my work at the moment is generated with a scanner. It turns out that while computers and most other newer electronics can be plugged into the European 220V plug with a simple adaptor, some electronics require a voltage converter (we run 120V electricity in the US). So, long story short, I fried the adaptor on the scanner.

Damn. But, I must remember that the scanner experiments came from a series of mishaps, so perhaps something new that I wouldn't have discovered is in store.

While I look for a new adaptor (and it seems that several artists in town already know about this issue, and are providing suggestions), I have made friends with the ancient Brother document scanner in the studio. The work is coming out very differently than with the film scanner, as the light only comes from one direction and the resolution is different, but I am getting some initial results that I am interested in.

My main workspace. 
New work in progress.

New work in progress, and my favorite camera.


Installation tests.

View into the studio from the stairs up to the Deiglan Gallery, which is connected to the studio.

And a gift to myself from the local bookstore. It's beautiful. 

Today I went across the street to the Populus Tremula for their opening and to see the space - the gallery is the lower level of the Art Museum, which has several galleries and artist studios.  At the opening, I was swept up by the kind Hrefna Hardardottir who took me around to several openings,open studios and also by the electronics store. 

In case you are under the impression that this is all very quiet and meditative here on the fjord....

The day I arrived, I noticed a stack of ship freight containers stacked up the hill from the studio, with a huge ramp being build on it. Daily, snow from the mountains has been trucked in and now there is a huge jump built. This is happening tonight (bass is currently shaking the apartment). So, in the interest of continuing to catch up on sleep, earplugs been purchased.

fireworks, right outside the kitchen window.

Tomorrow, I pick up my rental car and will shift from settling in to the studio to taking road trips out to the lava fields and lakes to photograph and record sound and video. I am looking forward to the solitude and silence I love about Iceland and to the work that comes of it.

I'll leave with these images of the Icelandic Spar, my current obsession and a focal point in the work being created while I am here.

Today, in the kitchen....
Amazing how the colors change as the stone is moved in the sunlight:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

crary glitch.

There is never 
pure access
 to a single object; 
is always multiple, 
adjacent to and overlapping with 
each others objects, desires, and vectors.


Jonathan Crary

**Jonathan Crary's October publication Techniques of the Observer has been an important influence in my studio practice. I am currently experimenting with data glitching, and decided to take this scan of the Icelandic Spar, a calcite crystal that doubles vision and was used as a navigational tool, and to glitch it using text from this book.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

connections through time and space.

unsanctioned scanner activity.

I am home in my studio this morning for the first time in what feels like a very long time. I have my required coffee, a stick of incense burning, and warm light is streaming in through the large windows that overlook the snowy woods. Winter has been long and longer, cold days stretching into colder days, ice, snow... more ice, more snow... below zero temperatures in March make Spring seem like an abstract concept. But this week, a small group of robins hopping in a snow bank and two squirrels chasing each other through the wood pile make spring seem, at least, possible.

As I was making my coffee this morning while trying to make the wood stove burn hotter (we ran out of fuel oil this morning, I think I was in denial that we'd need another 100 gallons), I received an email that said, simply: 

Love you, Mary! That is all.

It's been nearly three years since I've heard from this friend, with occasional spans of years between emails before that. Our correspondence from the last 5+ years was included. I remember him in high school, a writer, funny, a good friend. We wrote poetry in the after-school writers club "Blue Coffee" and we drank coffee with our friends, playing cards and talking late into the nights. I married one of those friends from that group and life moved forward in different ways for each of us.

I still have the letter he wrote me when I left for college; I remember re-reading it when times felt confusing or lonely. Reaching out through time and space, change and distance. Contact was different in the 90's; no Facebook to keep us superficially connected, you had to work for it. Our last exchange came from me, in June of 2011. I wrote then about the string of family losses that had spanned the years preceding - my mother, grandmother and aunts - and wrote about starting grad school, my excitement about that, and the stable life in Vermont we had built. The "we" of then, of course, is different than the "we" of now, and it was strange to see this letter that I had written hours before my life spun around permanently and changed direction. Life, of course, moved forward after that too - filled with new experiences, sensations, goals and perspectives.

There is no tidy end to this reflection. I close my eyes, appreciating the quiet and I take a deep breath. I feel the hot sun on the arms as I type, and I smile.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Seen & Revealed

In the installation Seen & Revealed, I examine and modify a set of vintage film slides purchased on Craigslist. I don’t personally know the people in the photographs and I have only a vague memory of the woman from whom I bought the crate of slides many years ago. These slides are of a couple, Herman and Ruth, and their adventures together. 

Over time, I have pieced together bits of their history based on the images and handwritten notes found on the slides. Married in 1957 in mid-life, Herman seemed to be rather fond of Ruth; I find the writing on the slides and the accompanying images captivating.  



 Memory is mutable. It changes constantly and our experiences are continually re-imagined and re-contextualized. The level of awareness we hold in regards to our experiences is lost and regained and lost again. How then can the photograph be considered as both a record and an abstraction of those experiences? 

 On view at the University of Vermont's L/L Gallery at 633 Main St in Burlington, VT until December 6.