Posted by: jeanne | July 7, 2014

settling in; gathering of the tribe

so we had our first gathering, a two parter at the residence and again the next evening at kaffi klara, the local bakery/restaurant.  will and i arrived first; he’s one of the 2 guys and one of the 2 other yanks, also here to write.  most of the artists are painters or photographers, and he’s the only other one here doing language art, for lack of a better word.  there are 9 of us here at listhus and outliers this month.  the program just continues to grow.  it used only to be the one house and gallery space, and now there are 2 more buildings, so the program can accommodate 16 artists a month now, making it – i think – the largest program in iceland (i could be wrong).  soon we’ll outnumber the actual residents of this small town.  i wave to everyone, and they all say hi back.  not Góðan daginn hi.

IMG_0926 at kaffi klara

basically this involves english speakers from all over the world.  siggi is icelandic, alice is from hong kong – they run the residency program.  fran is from the phillipines, julie is from france, frank and will and i are yanks, one lesley is english, the other is scottish by way of australia, cosima is australian, and mary is also scottish.

it was interesting to get us all together to talk about our own work.  it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but i wasn’t prepared to talk about my work at all.  but everyone was doing it.  mostly we all just showed our websites, talked about how we work and discussed why we chose this place to come to.  i talked about my process, because i don’t do exhibitions and galleries, but mostly people showed their art school projects or their last residency show or their latest work.

and after that we were all a lot more casual with each other.  this first week has mostly been about settling in and getting to work for all of us, and we’ve been tiptoeing around each other so as not to cause any disturbance in that process.  especially since it rained constantly for most of that first week, everyone has also been taking long walks to explore this wonderful little glacial valley we’re in.

i’ve been trying to make bread this week, as well as writing and starting a painting.  it’s an unfamiliar kitchen and stove and materials, to the point where i’m not sure whether i’m using whole wheat or rye flour.  i made sourdough starter the moment i unpacked, but until today it was quick yeast bread, which never really finished baking even tho i made it twice.  the sourdough smells rather pungent, but is a much better loaf, and i have to call the first loaf, which came out today, a qualified success (not enough salt).  by the time i leave it’ll probably be decent bread.

in the meantime, i’ve been writing away, a thousand or two words a day, and yesterday i started on my first painting, a watercolor of kerlingarfjoll, the mountain of the troll woman.  i’ll post about that when i’ve finished, in my art blog.

after the first meeting siggi was talking about this valley’s huldufolk, or hidden people.  he told me about an island in the middle of a waterfall and another flat rock surrounded by trees in kleifer.  so i ran off, leaving the meeting before the others, and took the bike up to the waterfall to see the fairies’ home, which is a nice big island that you can’t get to, the water is so strong.  the grass is never cut there, siggi says, not because it’s impossible to get a mower onto the island, but because elves live there and nobody dares to.  he says that in olden years the guy who was tending the hydroelectric station there wouldn’t stay because the fairies were so noisy – as if he could hear them over the roar of the falls.


i will get to the other spot real soon.  after it stops raining.  actually, you can see fresh snow on the mountains in the clip and photo.  in july.  the locals noted how strange that was on their various facebook pages.

tomorrow there’s an impromptu trip to akureyri for supplies.  i’m going to be looking for a stovepipe so i can steam some silk paintings.  stovepipes are a dime a dozen in the states, but here everybody uses geothermal energy and nobody has woodstoves or even chimneys, so i’m going to have to think of something special.  maybe if we lived near a geothermally active area like geysir i could rig a steamer over one of the natural vents in the earth, but we don’t.  this part of iceland is not active, even tho we get the odd earthquake that nobody can feel.

a word about sleep.  i was asleep just now, but woke up, and since it’s still light out, felt no compunction about getting this blog post up before going back to sleep.  i’ve been taking naps every day, as well.  it’s like this at home, when i get up after an evening nap in the middle of the night and go downstairs to work.  but at least there i know it’s the middle of the night.  here it just feels like i’m taking lots of naps.  the birds call all night long.  people walk by the house whenever.  i could be out there wandering the hillsides at 3 am.  last night i finished a novel i’d been reading.  it was gloomy out all night, because it’s been raining, and i had the light on in my room because my eyes are getting so bad that i can’t see without adequate light.  but when i finished my novel and turned the light out i noticed that it was full daylight out, at 4 am.

oh wow, i just noticed a spider on the window sill.  i keep my windows open because the heat’s on and i don’t want to stifle myself.  and this nice spider is making a nest right outside, jittering in the wind.  cool.  while there are no mosquitos, there are plenty of flies.  looks like it’s going to be a big web, too, because she’s all over the gap between window and casement.  you go, girl.  i’ll have to be careful about shutting the window next time we have a gale.

i’m also very much in touch with home, which is a first for me.  usually on residency i don’t communicate with anybody, but here we have wifi, and i have an iphone and my laptop, and i’m using skype to talk to home, and posting on faecebook and youtube.  and this has already come in handy, as the first in an expected series of crises occurs at home that i can do little about.  fortunately i have a good support system.

well, and it’s 1:30 in the morning, so i guess i’ll go back to sleep.  have to be up on time to catch a lift into akureyri.  and i’m hoping to stop at the akureyri curry hut for lunch, as well as go to the hardware store for that stovepipe, and vinbudinn for a 4-pack of guinness, and the second hand shop for that icelandic sweater…


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