From March 26th through April 2, I had the great honor, privilege, and delight to return to my friends Andi and Yukiyo at Guesthouse 1x6 to continue the work I'd started in April of last year. This time, I was joined by my friend and colleague, Frumi, who'd never experienced Iceland before, so it was a joy to see some familiar sights (and plenty of new sights) with fresh eyes.
I rented a car from SADCars again; this time it was a Suzuki automatic. I love driving manual shift cars, but given the wind gusts that made their appearance throughout the week, it was a much more sound idea to go with a larger car! Frumi and I started our journey on Sunday by driving around the Reykjanes Peninsula and surveying some of the sights. We wound up at Bryggjan in Grindavik for some of the most amazing lobster bisque soup I have ever eaten.
On Monday, we traveled to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and much photographing was to be had. I'd been on the search for abandoned farmhouses, and we came upon one in particular that I'd been searching for: Dagverdera. The landscape was so moving, and we watched as the Snæfellsjökull loomed in the distance and got ever larger the closer to the national park we traveled. The weather couldn't have been more perfect. Along the way, we met the wonderfully kind and inspiring Daniel and Linda, who are in the process of opening a guesthouse/spiritual center at the base of the peninsula. Opening in May, their facilities will include apartments in reclaimed buses. Daniel is an incredible woodworker, and was the artist behind much of the design of Guesthouse 1x6. It was a lovely to meet them both!
Keflavik boasts some really great places to eat. We returned rather late in the evening, but were still able to have a meal at Kaffi Duus along with a good glass of Gull beer, which is my favorite thing to drink in Iceland (other than crisp, clean tap water).
On Tuesday, we travelled to Vik. The weather was tempestuously grey, at times rainy, at times clear and sunny, and absolutely gorgeous. The wind gusts on the black beach of Vik were so strong, I couldn't help but laugh as my breath was taken away from me. On the return trip, we stopped along the way for photographs. I was struck by how many more tourists there were as compared to last year, and especially as compared to two years ago when my husband and I drove the ring road. At Seljalandsfoss, for instance, the parking lot was almost full. We returned late in the evening to have pizza at Fernando's Pizza in Keflavik, home of the Bianca pizza, which consists of multiple cheeses and jam and it is just delightful.
Wednesday took us to Reykjavik and after a day of walking along Laugevegur and in and out of the many tourist shops. Thankfully, there are still some excellent local shops like 12 Tonar, where we stopped so that I could grab a couple cds and discover new indie Icelandic bands. Then we made our way to Hallgrimskirkja, where, upon entering, we were enveloped by organ music. Afterwards, we headed to some of my favorite places in Reykjavik: the Laundromat Cafe and the famous hot dog stand by the Harpa,Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. I can't handle how yummy pylsur are. Of course, because I was in Iceland on business as well as pleasure, we stopped at a local print shop to pick up my transparencies for screen printing, followed by a visit to an Icelandic art supply store, Litir og Fondur so I could pick up a few things for my workshop on Saturday. We ended our day with a little joyride around the rest of the Reykjanes Peninsula, which took us past Seltun. We watched spectacular sunsets, ate again at Kaffi Duus, and ended the night with an incredible show of Northern Lights.
Thursday and Friday were work days for me. For whatever reason, exposing my screens was a bit more challenging in the sunlight and while I settled on an exposure time that worked, it took me a couple of tries. In addition to several works on paper, I also created panels for the doors of the Guesthouse - a triptych: Afternoon, Evening, and Morning.
Saturday brought my workshop at Bokasafn Reykjanesbaer, where members of the Keflavik community were invited to come and make art with me. I brought with me my silkscreens so that people could print from them and create their own unique works of art, incorporating gelli plate printing with caran d'ache drawings. I am grateful to my friends Anna Maria and Anna Margret for their help coordinating and putting the word out about the workshop, and was so happy to share a moment of art-making with those who came out!
Art is both a profoundly therapeutic and deeply vulnerable practice. There are so many beautiful things that come out of an art-making experience, namely, we make connections with others in those creative moments. Art-making affords us time to go within ourselves to find universal truths. When we work side by side, as in a workshop setting, we start conversations with strangers and we see the humanity and light in each person who gathers around the table. Much like gathering for a meal, making art in a group beckons us to start conversations with strangers and leave as friends.
I wished everyday for time to go a little slower. Too quickly, Sunday came and so I had to fly home, leaving pieces of myself behind. Guesthouse 1x6 has new pieces in their collection, as does Duus Museum, which will be showing my work in June to July. So while I say bless bless for now, I look forward to seeing my wonderful friends and that gorgeous, awe-inspiring Icelandic landscape.
My most sincere gratitude to my dear, dear friends Andi and Yukiyo for their continued support and kindness, and without whom this new body of work could not have happened or continued or started...because who knows where the work will take me next?
From April 10 through April 18 I was honored to be in Iceland doing an Artist Residency in Keflavik. My friends, Andi and Yukiyo, the owners of Guesthouse 1x6 ( http://www.1x6.is/ ) invited me to come and stay for a week in order to produce a body of artwork in situ, and leave some art on the walls. This past summer, August 2015, my husband and I stayed at the guesthouse for our last night in Iceland. Andi and Yukiyo are so dedicated to the art of taking care of their patrons - we instantly felt at home and absolutely loved our stay, which capped off a truly amazing adventure in Iceland. I drove the Ring Road, the major road that connects most of the exterior of the island, in an attempt to photograph abandoned farmhouses in the stark, hauntingly beautiful and desolate landscapes. We spent most of our days camping, but treated ourselves to a night at 1x6 for our last night.
Truly, I have never experienced vistas that made me cry from how awe-inspiringly beautiful they were, but, as I crested over gravel mountain passes, my heart opened in ways I can't express, and a head-over-heels love affair with Iceland was born.
So to say I was ecstatic at the invitation would be a huge understatement. I'm grateful that my school supported my mission, and before I knew it, I was boarding my WowAir flight (http://wowair.us/) out of BWI and was on my way!
I rented a car with SADCars (http://sadcars.com/). I had rented a car with them over the summer - they specialize in used, well-loved, but well-maintained vehicles. Travel tip: roads in Iceland are rural! You may find yourself on an empty, gravel, mountain pass road that hugs narrow cliffs leading straight to the ocean. If that's the case, you probably want an old reliable rather than a flashy new vehicle. I have to say, SADCars took very good care of us when we were there in August; we got a flat tire in the East Fjords, and their maintenance guys had us back on the road with new tires in no time.
This time I got a little red Toyata Yaris. Here in the states I drive an automatic, but, thanks to a lovely colleague of mine, I learned how to drive stick just for traveling in Iceland (the cost difference between automatic and manual transmission was enough that in July I forced myself to learn a new skill) Getting back behind the wheel during this trip felt natural and fun.
The goals of this trip were:
Below are some of the photographs I took during my journey around the Reykjanes and Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Honestly, I have about 1,000 more photos on my camera that I haven't really had a chance to look at yet. These were taken on my phone.
One of the days was an "Admin day", wherein I met with Anna Maria and Anna Margret at Bókasafn Reykjanesbæjar. They were my contacts at the library, and were instrumental in organizing and promoting my workshop. A huge thanks to them and I'm glad I have new friends!
I also had my transparencies printed at a shop in town, Merkiprent. They had great service, had my transparencies printed the same day, and it was such a joy to be able to do some business with a local printshop. Below are the images I wound up using in this first batch of screens.
I exposed the screens using natural sunlight, at about 2pm. My exposure light did not work with European voltage.
The exciting challenge was to replicate my entire studio practice, on a micro scale, pared down to the most essential, all the while staying within the size and weight restrictions of WowAir. I was nervous about traveling with paints and inks, both because of cabin pressure, but also because of how tight security seems to be these days while flying. So I did my research. Artists, if you want to travel with your paints, make sure that you bag them in clear plastic bags. Write on the bag in Sharpie, "Artist Pigments suspended in ...." (whatever it's suspended in. In my case it was acrylic). I also tucked the MSDS sheets in to the bags, so if my suitcase got searched (which it did) my friendly TSA agent would have no questions about what I was traveling with.
On Saturday I got to teach the workshop at Bókasafn Reykjanesbæjar. I had my work out for people to view, as well as my business cards and post cards for the show currently up at Pennswood Gallery. Local art enthusiasts were invited to come out for free and print from my screens, making their own creations on fabric and paper. I introduced them to Gelli Plate printmaking, http://www.gelliarts.com/, and we used the easily found volcanic rocks to make textures on the printing plate. People experimented with painting back into the prints and combining images, as well as using Caran D'Ache crayons. It was such an honor to share with these new friends the magic of printmaking!
The week went entirely too quickly, despite my attempts at staying up late and waking up early. I was truly humbled by the kindness of strangers and the warmth and thoughtfulness of new friends. I tried so many new things, namely, traveling completely on my own. I went with an eagerness to learn and a passion for soaking up all I could from this experience, my eyes wide with awe at the beauty of this earth and its people. I ate really. really well. I drove further and more challenging roads than I thought I could. I had amazing conversations with beautiful human beings. Breathing the cool air, I felt healthier, stronger, and more connected to nature than I often do here. I was able to take the time to really BE in the moment, and cherish each one that I got to experience during this residency.
My heart is full and open.
I am so grateful for this opportunity and am especially grateful to Andi and Yukiyo for being such warm and kind hosts. I can't wait to be able to get into the studio to work with the ideas that have been bubbling and churning from this trip. More than anything, I leave a piece of myself in Iceland and have a longing to return.
I'm reminded of the Asgeir Trausti song, "Home":
Home, I'm making my way home
My mind's already there...
Takk fyrir and bless bless until we meet again, Iceland.
You can now get some of my images online in the form of leggings, iphone cases, duvet covers, shower curtains, pillows, and more!
Check it out:
Goings on from the ink-splattered mind of Gillian Pokalo