Posted by: jeanne | June 28, 2017

a collaborative art project

not knowing what to expect, i decided to sign up for a collaboration some weeks ago.  alice sent around a call for artists for the rót project, meaning ‘root’.  this is a group of artists in akureyri, and they’ve been holding this project for 4 years, for one week in the summer, a daily project decided and executed in one day.  i chose the 27th because it left me time to usher out the current residents and clean up after them.  turns out two other artists from listhus also chose this date, as well.  how convenient, as i wouldn’t have to pay all the mileage from olafsfjordur to akureyri and back (at 40kr per km).

sunrise in olafsfjordur, at something like 2am

jade joined me for the ride up and back, and we left the house shortly after 7:45am.  connor was with us, because i had a kind offer from one of the project manager’s 12 year old to watch him all day for only 500kr/hr.  so yay, because i wasn’t having any luck getting local childcare in olafsfjordur.

immediately upon leaving the tunnel on the eyjafjordur side, this magnificent view

too many magnificent views to take pictures of, certainly

we got to akureyri at the stroke of 9 – the church bells were just up the hill from the gallery where we spent the day.  some of the only free parking was there, too, so we first parked impossibly, and then when an artist and his dog left, scarpered his spot and parked much more reasonably.

breakfast was laid out, and we waited for a few minutes for everybody to arrive, and then started in, introducing ourselves and telling our art stories, and mentioning the kinds of things we liked to do.  sonja is german, jade is australian, i’m a yank, gemma is spanish, and heiddis, sunna, jonina and karolina are icelandic.


one of the artists mentioned glitter, and we all went oooh.  we were a team of women artists, mostly young, tho there were some mothers among us.  if there had been any men in our group, no doubt the idea of glitter would have been rejected, but as it was, we riffed on the theme of glitter for some time.  glitter = false happiness.  icelandic problems covered in glitter.  boring icelandic films made into happy movies with glitter.

one of the themes we talked about was the legitimacy of women’s art, and how we each struggled with the idea that we weren’t real enough artists, and our work wasn’t acceptable to the art world, and how if we had to make art on the kitchen table, maybe we were only faking being artists in the eyes of the world.  we have all struggled with that.

connor being well taken care of.  his sitter took him to several parks and wore him out.  yay

eventually we wrote our ideas down on a whiteboard and started prioritizing.


we arrived at our project shortly before lunchtime.  we decided to pick a really boring icelandic movie, where nothing happens in realtime, and project it thru a glitter-covered lens, which would make the movie seem brighter when you looked at it playing on the surface of the lens, and obscure it further when seen projected past the lens, the glitter acting not as pretty colors but as clouds.

our designated runner went out for lunch, and we sat around and discussed the details, and made lists of things we had to do.  the first thing was to get some glitter, plastic, a frame.  so somebody downloaded a suitably boring part of halldor laxness’ ‘under the glacier‘ and sonja went out to get footage of glittering water.


the next part required a lot of standing around talking about which wall to project the movie on, how dark we thought it was going to be, how much space to put between the projector, the plastic and glitter, and the wall;  all that kind of stuff.  at this point i was yawning and wishing to go home, because while i love the process of making art, unless it’s my process, i find it boring.  this was something i learned about myself that day.


once we had the plastic and glitter, we took a 6″ section of the plastic outside to spray it with glitter paint and then dose it with glitter powder.  the girls actually stood out in the street, got fumed out and covered with glitter in the wind, and almost caused accidents as cars came carefully down the steep street and swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid them.  i was across the street the whole time because the fumes were deadly.



once we determined that the plastic and glitter thing was going to work, we took a much bigger length of plastic and did that up as well.  the driver of the blue truck finished his business (they’re renovating the museum across the street) and ambled out past us, making some comment about glitter, which we offered to treat his truck with.  he drove faster.


at this point – the paint was drying and the whole gallery stank, and everybody was taking time to check email and such – i decided that it was a great time to go get dinner at the akureyri indian curry hut, which i’ve been drooling over for the past 3 years.  so i walked down and ordered chicken curry.  the guy remembered me and we talked about how things are going with him and his family – they’re indian duh – and then i walked back, ignoring all the gift shops and stopping at the 1/2 off rack at the bookstore to marvel at a paperback half priced at $35.  books are so expensive here.

this yarn sculpture greeted me on the way back.  i love iceland.


then it was a matter of framing and hanging the plastic from the ceiling, editing the film and fixing details like balancing the ladder on steps barely wide enough to hold it, and deciding which of us was okay with heights and wobbly ladders – i get vertigo now that i’m old, so not me.


we figured out that we only needed one side of the frame, and saved all the wood we’d bought for another project.  then instead of cutting the excess plastic off, someone hit upon the idea of folding it over, and suddenly we had two layers with a 2″ space in between, increased fabulousness on the glitter lens, and a much more interesting obscured image on the wall.  yay for unplanned solutions.


and then it was up and we turned to all the other bits and pieces.


at this point sonja went back out to retrieve her camera battery, which she had dropped off several hours ago at the camera store.  they never mentioned that there was a charge to charge her battery, and insisted on being paid 490kr for the service.  she thought this was not right, and asked them to support our project and not charge her for the battery, which in other places would be charged as a matter of courtesy.  but the sales assistant was pretty nasty about it, and when she asked to see the manager, he was nasty as well, and when she refused to pay and took her battery and left the store, he followed her out onto the sidewalk and attacked her, trying to pry her hands open to take her battery.  he ended up bruising her hand and cutting her finger.


so she decided to report him to the police, so i drove her there, and an icelandic artist accompanied us in order to make sure sonja was understood, and she gave a detailed report of what had happened.


the policeman took the report, disappeared to talk to his supervisor, and came back to say nothing was going to happen, even tho sonja insisted on pressing charges.  so that was interesting.  all sonja can do at this point is post bad reviews on yelp and trip advisor.  it certainly added spice to our day.

another art piece we passed in the street

so, drama over, we finished up our project.  we’d opened the doors to invite people to come in and see what we were up to, and got several visitors during the day, mostly who stopped in and stopped right back out again, afraid of disturbing us.



one of the visitors came in at the end, an american tourist.  i tried to explain our project to her, how we were trying to take the famously boring (according to icelanders) icelandic cannon and brighten it up a bit with fake happiness.  then we sat and talked over a glass of water about her job – pediatrician – her life (much like mine, with both our mothers disapproving of college because we were supposed to find fulfillment as married women and mothers) – the miserable and embarrassing political situation at home – and the prospect of retiring to some or other european country.

but then the show was over,  the public exhibition was done, and we locked the gallery and we retired to the pub two doors down, where several of the artists had work hanging on the walls.


i found a guinness, and had that, even tho the other beers were free, and paid 1100kr for the privilege.  airport prices.  but hey.  the curry cost me $22 (and lasted two nights).  connor got an orange juice and was his usual charming self.


but he was asleep within 5 miles of our leaving.  we dropped sonja off at the place she’d decided to stay that night – she wanted to film the sunset once more – and jade and i talked all the way back home.  i’m doing my second article on her stay.

a rainbow, and the 2nd of 3 hayings visible as freshly cut grass.  usually they only get 2

then we pulled over right before the tunnel to catch a photo of the wonderful waterfall that goes straight into the sea 150′ or so straight down.  it was in shadow because the sun was behind the mountain, so i didn’t get a great photo, but i’m pretty sure there’ll be other chances.  connor slept right thru it.


and then we were home.  connor cried when i woke him up, and complained that his legs hurt (not surprising given the amount of activity his babysitter afforded him).  but i got him into bed and gave him a quick bedtime story, and then sat down for my chicken curry.  but i was tired, too, and didn’t bother calling jim that night.

today was different.  i drew in and then painted the outline of the last wall on ida’s cafe.


while having coffee in the cafe i read on facebook where i had gotten permission to paint the sports center in the first ever article about my work.  good to know i’ve been approved – now to get the drawing from jim…..


today was our end of residence show, and we all met at the gallery at 4pm to pin our stuff to the wall.  i put up all jim’s drawings.  marie the flautist had a very interesting recital at tjarnarbog at 5, with very experimental flute playing and the film work of eric and sonja playing behind her.  our opening went as it usually does, with only a handful of townfolk attending.  but i’d made leftover-oatmeal cookies, popcorn, raw veggies and juice, and we ate all that (starving artists are well trained to deal with free food), talked to the guests, and hung out knowing it was almost the last night we would be together.  they’re all leaving in two days, and i’m going to have a great time cleaning two houses before welcoming in the next batch.


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