Tag Archives: Residencies

Lost and Found in Iceland

NOTE: My previous NEWS post about my Iceland adventure described my unforgettable time at the wonderful Gullistan Residency. The post below tells of the work that evolved afterwards inspired by Iceland in my home studio, which is going to debut at Michael Warren Contemporary, Denver from April 18 – May 27

Rehash: Why an Iceland Artist Residency in winter?

  1. I wanted to continue my exploration of darkness and its associated fear: “Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”— Sarah Williams, from “The Old Astronomer to His Pupil” in Best Loved Poems of the American People
  2. Someone in Finland’s Arctic Circle told me that 24-hour winter darkness made the world appear upside down. Dark in the sky, light on the ground.
  3. Same someone told me that there was time in that darkness when just enough light glimmered to turn sky and ground a seamless monochromatic navy blue.
  4. To give myself the opportunity to experience that which is greater than…as in AWE.
  5. A longing to dip into Isolation—void—quiet.
  6. To experience what can be seen in the dark.
  7. A black and white world!
  8. Wanting to ‘see’ the climate change impact in the far North.

The Reality and the Ensuing Art

Having been to the Alaskan and Scandinavian Arctic Circle and the Antarctic the next logical place for me to experience ‘The Great Alone’ was the far North Island of Iceland. The previous 3 travels were done in their summer light so I felt the winter extremes calling me. It wasn’t the cold, which I would have gladly forfeited, but the 24 hour darkness that both appalled and appealed to me. The idea of darkness in a little populated place far away at the end of the Earth called to me.
Darkness is a place of my long-held childhood fears and also a magnet for my wanting to know what mysteries and beauty it holds. I was fortunate because Iceland being a volcanic Island held blackness in its land mass and its winter skies and seas.

I woke in darkness, went to my studio in darkness and returned home in darkness. It was seamless, monochromatic and after a while knowing and soothing. The clear nights with overhead stars and eventually Northern Lights gave me a deep appreciation of cosmic beauty that is unseen in lit skies of city life.

Seeing and hearing people and especially children in the small village where I resided go about their ordinary days in the dark gave me a perspective of the cycle’s normalcy. It is always important to note that I experienced my immersion in Iceland as an outsider not from the perspective of the people who live that landscape from generational knowledge and deep, fond attachment. The Edenesk shadowed by the menacing perspective that I have is that of someone finding themselves in unknown territory without the intuited preparation.

After a few days of vast landscape views it occurred to me that being able to experience that vastness was because there were no trees obstructing the land’s lines. This never failed to astound me in a profound way. I could actually sometimes see the curvature of the Earth that made me feel astronaut-like.

The phenomena of volcanic bumps and fissures and the North American and European plates slippage causing the Island to separate and subsequently fill-in gave my graphite acrylic and wood paintings their vocabulary reflected in their structure and titles.

There are many layers of primer and paint on these pieces and they are sanded and burnished many times with a slow zen-like sensibility. This makes me feel like I am participating in the process of creating and refining a millennium of nature and weather. When completed they are as smooth as nature’s river rocks resonating the depth of maturity, timelessness and ancientness of the land.

The seeming redundancy of the repeated dark forms of my pieces is how the endless Iceland landscape revealed itself to me. It goes on and on and on opening to more variations of patterns but consistent, restrained and heart-wrenchingly beautiful absolutely owning AWE.

Of course in Iceland there was always ice under foot and tires—the dichotomy of glistening beauty and lurking danger. Blizzards of whiteout graced us with sky and earth becoming one. The various shades and nuances of the white defied the myth of white not being a color.

Slowly but surely the whiteness would yield sparingly to the underlying black volcanic rock armature as white and black married into a compatible marble cake co-existence. Thus my dark landscape paintings called out for their counterpart and my white acrylic paintings complied while letting the black show through enough out of deference. These were done with a squeegee in an improvised calligraphy.

I am hoping to seduce viewers with beautiful art reflecting my impressions of the land I experienced and the perhaps they will contemplate the planet’s wonders and want to preserve that. Further to think of the fragile future of our nether regions melting causing our oceans to swell and overtake our shores. Earth’s heartrending beauty could be changed and forever subsumed.

My intention in this work besides reflecting Iceland is to help us all understand our own role in halting the otherwise inevitable and preserving the exceptionalism of our planet for generations to come.(browse the artworks that were inspired by Iceland here.To purchase the catalog, click here)

Upside Down

My mornings are my afternoons and evenings now

As I live in the silence of my hermit white winter —mpl

 

Tag Archives: Residencies

ICELAND is Icy!

01.iceland02.-darkNOTE: It is a bit presumptious to write about Iceland when announcing an exhibit inspired by the Antarctic but my Iceland Artist Residency happened most recently and I do want to share my impressions. You can also read about my excursion to Antarctica that inspired my work in the “Melting” exhibition here.

Iceland is a magical place. It is totally understandable to me that early settlers believed in elves in this otherworldly gorgeous place. Its beauty has an ethereal quality. ‘Thin Places’ are thought to be where earth and heaven meet—then surely Iceland is such a ‘thin place’.

I chose to be in Iceland in the winter because I wanted to further explore darkness. My fear of the dark as a child gave me a family nickname of ‘Fraidy Cat’. My adulthood didn’t help me grow out of that fear until just a few years ago when I set about making black paintings. As so often happens in my art practice my issues are addressed even before I understand that intention.

But as I painted black I came to love all the possibilities of the color, all the beauty of nights and darkness and to look squarely at my fears. I recently read that if we didn’t have so much artificial light sources we would see into the darkness and recognize sources of nature that are now unseen, forgotten and unknown. I believe this as my life has become richer for the beautiful revelations of darkness.

“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night”.
~ Sarah Williams, from The Old Astronomer to His Pupil

04So that was my original intention of living in 21 hours of darkness each day in Iceland. A Finn living in the Arctic Circle told me one time that winters turn the world upside down—the darkness is above and the light is below. As a believer in having new experiences, turning my world upside down seemed to be a great choice. Also having been told that the low horizon light shrouded environments in a blue monotone, how could I not apply to an Artist Residency for Dec-Jan. Gullkistan,in Laugarvatn, Iceland turned out to be a perfect place. It is only 1 hour from R04Beykjavik but remote with a population of only 250. It is also on Iceland’s Golden Circle of remarkable nature.

One of the aspects of traveling that keeps me on my toes is always the unexpected no matter the time and effort made in planning. So it was that there was a blizzard the week before we arrived in Iceland and driving to Laugarvatn introduced us to interesting road condit08.ions as we thanked our rental car for the spiked tires that hugged the icy roads.It was also a blessing that David instinctively remembered all his icy weather years of driving in Wisconsin. After a week in Laugarvatn we had what I would call a blizzard. It snowed for 3 days and banks grew to 36”. The plows were out day and night and crews worked relentlessly to clear the roads. This was well choreographed as they had done it many, many times.

Then there was the cold infection I came down with the second day at Gullkistan that sent me to a health clinic with swollen glands and subsequently into Selfoss, the largest Southern town, for penicillin. Even with coughing and low energy I set up my studio at the residency with a wonderful view of the Laugarvatn Lake and the surrounding mountains where the weather and color palettes were constantly changing. Frankly the views distracted me often from painting but I did photograph the views that would inspire my work back in my home studio.

Surprisingly there was more light then I anticipated starting around 11AM and retiring around 3:30. This changed to expand by 5 minutes each day after the Winter Solstice December 21st. So the first work I did was 40 small panels with several coats of black, gray and finally graphite that was sanded and buffed several times and for me held the allure of the volcanic stone and the vast lava fields resulting from the volcanic Island and its now 30 active volcanoes. This work, Winter Lyrics, will be buffed further to a luster and installed on wall ledges.
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Routines soon became apparent after a couple of weeks of acclimating to not ‘sensing’ the time with dark skies. So like the natives we woke in the dark and I set off to the studio with cleats on my shoes to navigate the prevailing ice. In the studio I worked until it had been dark a couple of hours (around 4-5pm) and then back to our apartment for dinner, mail, Icelandic and Scottish BBC TV and bed again under warm comforters.

1213I soon acquired heavy wool fisherman knitted mittens which kept my hands warmer than gloves and a knitted cap. In Iceland I learned to dress warmly and was rarely uncomfortable unless it was 1AM watching Northern Lights or the wind was gusting. At home in winter in New Mexico with our sunny days I run out with few outer clothes and then complain about being cold. You never forget the cold in Iceland which many days was no colder than in Albuquerque.

So the sights—but to clarify everything was a sight to these unschooled eyes but we did venture further on a windy day to Gullfoss Falls which is a Niagara Falls comparison. A huge, loud, beautiful and in January icy wonder. To arrive there we had to pass through Geysir Hot Springs which has blowholes that became active about 1000 years ago. All over Iceland you see steam bubbling upwards but in Geysir they are more concentrated.

The drive was marvelous as we passed many small Icelandic multi-colored horse herds. Beautiful animals weathering the storm as their sheep buddies were kenneled in barns. The brave horses were captivating as they sometimes would be huddled together against the wind forming a predominately brown hill.14

Then a 20 minute ride in the other direction from Laugarvatn was Pingvellir National Park located on the Mid-Atlantic ridge. It was the original parliament meeting place of the early chieftains. I walked through Almannagia’s deep cliff gully where the North American and the European plates drift apart at 1” a year. It is an odd but impressive feeling to walk where Iceland is literally splitting apart.

Toward the last week of our stay we were alerted that there would be Northern Lights and we did see them softly over the mountains but the third night we drove further away from town into the darkness and had an unbelievable light show. That the Universe could give us such a visual feast brought tears to our eyes in gratitude. It is choreographed to an unheard musical piece as the light dances to changing rhythms, intensities and patterns. It is NOT a cliché—it is a phenomenon of great beauty.

11And so went our days and weeks of work and soaking up our experience. At the end of our 4+week tenure we decided to drive along the East coast’s fishing villages toward the airport. Knowing th15at the Blue Lagoon was closed for renovations gave us a sigh of relief as we didn’t have to go to what is clearly a crowded tourist haven. However we did stay within sight of it and saw some futuristic hydro-energy plants that were huge and spewing thick fog and clouds. These provide the electricity and heat for Iceland.

On 18.our last day before boarding our plane for the US we drove around the Reykjanes Peninsula which gave us a clear picture of isolated fishing villages situated on the rough North Seas with turf houses and churches. Seeing these remote places reinforced for us the resilience and can-do spirit of Icelanders with their fierce Viking origins.

We left the next day vowing to return soon when we could be tourists and when the roads would be more navigable. The West Coast and the North are calling to us and we are anxious to respond knowing as we do now the ongoing wonders of Iceland.

Meanwhile in my NM studio I am continuing to be inspired by the colors, impressions and feelings that I experienced in Iceland.
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Tag Archives: Residencies

Summer into Fall and Beyond

01. Iceland studio.I’m writing this as I’m preparing for my fall exhibitions and thinking about my Artist Residency in Iceland December-January. Do we always just have the perception that the summer passes quickly or does it in reality? I’m like a kid that thinks I’ll have lazy down time in the summer months and then when the good part should begin—boom, zoom the summer is over.

02. Cuba

The hot weather for me started in May on a trip to Havana, Cuba for their 12th Art Biennial. The trip was a packed 8 days of art, artists and revelations! Colorful, chaotic, musical, multi-layered, with a background of romantic buildings in decay and new friends! The biggest thrill was to find out that culture is an economic engine of Cuba.

In June I worked on my Antarctic pieces inspired by my expedition last year. I’m excited that Mary Anne Redding will be curating this 4 month exhibit of “Antarctic Inspirations” with David Vogel and myself at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts in Boone, NC spring 2016. I’ll keep you posted.

03. LEIS_disturbances in the field install 5

bluesArt Aspen at the Aspen Ice Garden was jumping in August and my Denver gallery—Michael Warren Contemporary showed work from my blue paintings.

September 11th begins my 6-week exhibition at Michael Warren Contemporary, Denver. I’m thrilled to be working with Mike McClung and Warren Campbell, both of whom are 06.path Takenknowledgeable and appreciative of my art—an artist’s ultimate affirmation. I really look forward to this exhibit that was curated with their exceptional eyes. Hope you get to the Mile High to see this! I’ll be there at the opening September 11.

In August I gratefully participated in a group exhibit of over 100 international artists at the Haegeumgang Theme Museum in South Korea. This extraordinary exhibition resonates the poetry of Taro Aizu bringing attention to Japan’s nuclear accident at Fukushima after the earthquake. japanThe tragedy there is far from over—we can’t forget.

07. LuminersIn November I will have a solo exhibit at the esteemed Delaplaine Visual Art Center in Frederick, MD overlooking the historic Carroll Creek Park. “Water + Water” will display work on paper inspired by water! The opening is November 7 closing December 20.

Besides the busy buzz of preparing and shipping work to these various exhibits I have just begun also to plan and schedule a commissioned triptych of BLUES—excited about that! And the editing and planning for a book of my poems written during an Artist Residency at the Morris Graves Foundation is in the works to be available on Amazon.

08. Crates2I am so grateful to have the assistance in my work and studio of Joni Tobin Mayer and Julianne Aguilar. Their loyalty, sensibilities and skill sets are invaluable to me.

In 2016 I’m planning (we know how that goes) to do tidying of house, studio and life as outlined by Marie Kondo in her immensely popular book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”. This will hopefully include a studio sale of some of my inventory!

Can’t wait to be in the quiet winter time of Iceland… mpl

northern lights

Tag Archives: Residencies

Greece Residency and Exhibit

As many of you know the Artist Residencies I do reflect where I think I need to be for my work or life, or both. The Ionian Greek island of Kefalonia called to me this year as I felt after a respite of painting green I needed blue again. Having lived by the Jersey Shore growing up and then living in Los blue-greenAngeles for 20 years I confess to occasionally feeling water deprived in New Mexico. In Albuquerque our West Mesa has that open horizontal expanse but lacks the accompanying water element. When a field of water dominates my horizon view it makes the world seem without obstacles, endless and open. A place to dream!

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After doing my research the Ionian Center for Arts and Culture on Kefalonia intrigued me. The Center is a hub of advanced education that encourages projects of science and art. It also hosts workshops, exhibitions and Residencies. Moreover Kefalonia is  known as the “Green Island” but is also surrounded by the Blue Ionian Sea. In that setting I would have the distinct luxury of both blue and green inspiration. Furthermore the writer Homer and the poet Byron both found muses there so I would be in excellent company.

04.Ionian CTRLuckily my application was accepted and my photographer-husband, David Vogel also applied and was accepted. We then wrote a joint proposal for our work and exhibit. All this was done a year in advance but that year sped by and we found ourselves in the Kefalonia village Metaxáta soon enough. The Center is a white marble columned building of impressive architecture. Our rooms had a balcony with views of the surrounding red tile house roofs, the olive trees and the sea—bliss. To top this off my studio had plenty of natural light, ample tables and facilities.

The closest town, Argostoli has a port, plaza, resources for supplies and cafés for coffee and people 05. Rockswatching—a great place to hang out. The Island is relatively large so at the first opportunity a kind new Greek friend took us on an introductory day trip of the West side of the Island. He brought us to a monastery overlooking an emerald sea housing a monk of an ancient age. Michael also showed us a lovely beach accessed by a hairpin road with white 06.Slabssensually worn smooth rocks. As a rock lover I had to select a couple to add to my collection at home. I believe that rocks hold the energy of ‘place’.

Next we visited a rock quarry—the island does after—all, sit on rock. I’m sure a form of this will show up in my art one day…piles of slabs and fossils. We were then guests at the quarry owner’s home where his wife prepared a wonderful and typical Kefalonia meal. Everything we ate was from their garden, their cow or chicken. Such a treat and typical we found of Greek hospitality and generosity.

07.studioThe beautiful turquoise and blue waters and the storm laden skies soon sent me indoors to my studio where I worked on a group of sea/sky 9’ long scrolls with Japanese inks and Washi paper. I should mention that the first weeks we were in Kefalonia we had rain—lots and lots of rain. Not just rain but rainstorms accompanied by violent winds and incredible lightning storms that lit the night skies to daylight. The weather was really a Drama Queen demanding attention and getting it from us.

While working in the studio during the days I was also doing some digital drawings in the apartment on my iPad in the evenings trying several drawing and paintings apps. Also I was making ink drawings In accordion books. One book would evolve to be called Ionian EKG and would reflect my impressions of the dramatic fickled weather and the other would be called Continuum as the island is a steady presence regardless of being plagued with earthquakes (1953) and foreign occupations— the Venetians, English, Italians, Germans—and financial downturns.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

08.Books

09.Fish buyingWhile my work continued David was taking gazillion photographs and editing them totally wrapped up in the stimulus surrounding us. There came a time fairly soon though when I solicited him to help me do a series of cyanotypes—or sun prints. I had it in mind to photograph an octopus with the cyanotype process so he and I went down to Argostoli and bought a ten-pound frozen octopus that in solid form did not intimidate me. 10.OctoExcited we also bought a squid and some shrimp as well. We put them in the refrigerator at the Center for the octopus to thaw. I had the octopus in mind from the beginning of our residency acceptance. That form came to my mind in a dream and I saw white tentacle shapes dancing in fields of blue.

In a day and a half Octo (as he became affectionately known) thawed and my affection for him dimmed somewhat as I handled the slimy mass that had eyes and suckers. I kept telling myself how privileged I was to hold such a primordial sentient being in my hands—but my reptilian brain kept urging me to drop the critter and flee. There was no chance of that happening however because I had to put up a brave front for the husband that I had enlisted to help me with this project.

OK—here’s the cyanotype process—we began with the smaller creatures—squid and shrimp and the chemically treated paper. In a semi dark room (made so with newspapers covering the windows and glass door) we placed the objects (yes I’m objectifying the critters) in a composition on the paper placed on a board. We lifted the board and carefully carry our sandwiched package outside and lay it down on the sunny driveway. Note that this required many squats and resultant sore muscles. I watched the paper intensely and when I determine it has turned a gray-blue we hurriedly lifted our passenger up and swiftly carry it inside the darkened space to rinse in water quickly revealing the white image and blue background—then off to drying. Now to rearrange the composition and do the 11.squidritual again and again and again. With squid and shrimp and shrimp and squid. Finally we feel the ‘opening act’ served it’s purpose and we’re ready for big time except we’re too tired and need to rest and do Octo the next day.

12.OctoThe next day came and squishy Octo became our leading man. After some shots we were handling Octo like pros placing his tentacle’s this way and that and getting good images. Cyanotypes are magical. It’s an ‘alive’ process because you witness the developing happening before your eyes and the results are not predictable which is sometimes a disaster but always a thrill. Oh, and confession to be made—we prepared and ate the octopus and squid after they were our loyal models. Sad but true and delicious!

With my scrolls completed and the cyanotypes drying David and I turned our focus to preparing our exhibit and talk event which was happening in a week’s time. We decided to call the event, “The Artist’s Mind” and talk about our life, travels, work and our impressions of Kefalonia. We outlined our talk and compiled illustrative slides. David made a slide show of his wonderful photography of Kefalonia and also one of his work in the Antarctic as the Center’s curator, Sophie Kagadis, felt strongly that people on the Island would want to see and hear about our trip there last January. He also made one of our making the cyanotypes as he thought people would be interested and amused in that process and lastly a slide show of the images I created on my iPad. I truly enjoyed being able to quickly sketch with the software and find out all the variables possible.

13.ipad

14. DyeingWhile we were installing the work with some trusty helpers I found time to do another project. I wanted to try to dye some large sheets of fabric with BLUE “sea and sky”. I did this outside with tubs and drying racks. Although a novice I liked the results enough to use these panels in the exhibit. At another time in my future I would like to use indigo and try this again. I once did a brief indigo dyeing stint with a master in Japan and was impressed by the process, beauty and history. It has stuck with me ever since and will probably come to fruition in the future.

15. RadioSo our “The Artist’s Mind” became a multimedia event of photography, paintings, cyanotypes, dyed painting and slide discussion. We had an adventure setting up all the media—projectors in two areas and a TV screen in another. Luckily we had experienced help converting our US Apple projects to Greek PC—more complex than it should be methinks.

We had a fabulous time doing a radio interview with two wonderful ladies at the local station. We found ourselves 16. Mayorlaughing and carrying on a bit and extending our interview to all areas of life and art and telling people to come to the event.

“The Artist’s Mind” was a wonderful night and came off beautifully. The attendees were so enthusiastic, interested and welcoming. We had a translator but didn’t need her as everyone that attended had a command of English. The Vice Mayor of the Island attended and opened our talk by saying that we were now Kefalonians.

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21.MykonosBefore we left we had a couple of days to wonder and visited the North and East of the island and ate some wonderful food, sat on beaches and celebrated David’s birthday. Then we headed to Mykonos just to see the “white town”, windmills and sea. A picture postcard Island. Then on to Athens.

Athens is such a gift, steeped in a long history and civilization and yes, democracy. The energy of the city is still very much present and it was apparent at every turn. Our arrival date coincided with their Independence holiday. It was very festive in the streets and perhaps forgotten for a while were the economic difficulties the Greeks are experiencing that otherwise is very much a point of discussion.

22. MuseumWe loved having the Acropolis view from our Plaka hotel balcony. The Acropolis Museum was a breathtaking architecturally and complimented and honored the Acropolis that could be seen from its windows and restaurant terrace. We were so fortunate to be able to view and be next to the Acropolis at every turn. The visit to the Acropolis was astounding but it was the brushing up against it in unexpected ways that made it, for our brief visit, memorable. At the Museum you actually entered walking on top of archeological ruins peering down upon them through glass walkways leading into the Museum. The displays were monumental.

Walking in Athens was easy and there was something 23. Guardsto see at every turn like when we came upon the changing of the guards at the tomb of the unknown soldier—tradition and choreography at play. The other thing we found compelling was the jewel-box Museum of Cycladic Art. The objects were so minimal, classical and beautiful and made in 2000 or so BC—very inspiring and humbling to this artist.

24.Cycladic

Residencies bring me to many places I would not otherwise visit. They provide me with a bit of immersion into a country and it’s people giving me insights and appreciation I would not otherwise have. Not being engaged in my everyday tasks of life gives me an opportunity to focus and dream about my art. All these and more are gifts that I bring home with me to my studio and then the gifts keep on giving. As sorry as I was to leave Greece I’m excited to be back in my world again with new ideas. I feel blessed to have these opportunities. So where shall I apply next?

25. Dream

Tag Archives: Residencies

GREEN Abundance at Las Cruces Museum of Art

06. Seed 13GREEN Abundance, my multimedia exhibition of paintings, videos, photographs, sculpture and poetry, will be a solo exhibition at the Las Cruces Museum of Art (NM) November 23rd until January 18, 2014. There will be an artist reception December 6 at 5-7pm that I plan to attend.

This work was influenced by my Artist Residency in the verdant North of Thailand. My studio was a veranda with a thatch roof that looked out to vegetation of all colors so my palette was ever-changing. The color linchpin, however, was GREEN—the living, breathing color of life. Around me were rice paddies and ponds and food, food, food. Sights, smells, taste and tactility assaulted my sensory system in ah such a good way. Even now I can arouse my sense memories of that experience without 05effort and feel the Thai heat, sunshine and GREEN. My media grew in an effort to express all the imagery and ideas flooding me during my stay.

The paradox of this bliss is that the surrounding countries as well as the hillside people of Thailand have a different experience—one of far less generousity in many ways. That painful knowledge lead me to the poems and empty food sculptures to express seed the idea of the inequality that we face on our planet.

This series of work has been embraced by a group of supporters (I call them the Green Team) that rallied and donated to the GREEN Kickstarter campaign—an internet crowd sourcing funding. Their support for shipping the exhibit has made it possible for GREEN to exhibit at several venues and more to come.

I hope this location—The Las Cruces Museum of Art, is one that you will be able to visit.

20. Arrangement

Tag Archives: Residencies

Thin Places*

When my husband and I visited Alaska several years ago the one place I truly wanted to visit was the city of Barrow. It was a heartfelt and non-logical desire. Barrow way way up North at the end of the 01. Arcticworld called to me with a Siren’s song. I didn’t know what to expect but as we traveled the length and breadth of Alaska. It was my most memorable and inspiring experience.

Flying to Barrow from Fairbanks I could see and sense it’s remoteness from the skies. We landed on a small airstrip and bused into the small village built on tundra and permafrost. The buildings showed their history of hard winters and their stilt construction made them appear tenuous. The landscape was flat with grasses that looked as though a hair iron had pulled it through its prongs until it was straightened smooth. Winds from the sea had bent the grasses down to its roots.

But it was standing staring out into the Arctic Ocean’s horizon and dipping my toes into its freezing waters that fulfilled my primal need–that of traveling to the ‘end’ or maybe more accurately the ‘beginning’.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeduced by Barrow, I applied and received an artist residency in the town of Kimijarvi, north of Finland’s Arctic Circle and Finland’s northernmost city. At first I was disappointed as we drove to the Residency from the Rovaniemi Airport about 60 minutes south of Kemijarvi. I saw forests to the right and left, in front of us and to the rear. We were enclosed by verticality, busyness and green-ness–not the minimalism I expected. But soon the translucent 24 hour light won me over making me feel as though I could climb right up into the sky passing through the air and clouds to the heavens above. Visiting Norway to the North all the way to the sea gave opportunities at the top of the fiords to see minimal landscapes with land and water meeting at the same ground level seamlessly with nothing to obstruct my views.

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Almost immediately after leaving Finland I started longing for a polar experience. I researched the possibilities and honed in on the Antarctic Continent–way way down in a different season plane. I petitioned and won my willing husband over and then 9 months of planning and outfitting ensued. The busyness of planning the expedition stalled any conscious thinking on my part of what the trip would really entail. I just operated on the knowledge that I wanted to go. It wasn’t until just a month or so before we left that the reality of crossing the Drake Passage at Cape Horn occurred to me when I remembered reading about it’s water’s treacherous possibilities.

Working our way down Argentina’s Patagonia made me realize the potential enormity of our trip. Everything in Patagonia seemed large and spectacular. The Perito Moreno Glacier, the mountains, 03B_Perito Morenothe sunsets, the sheep estancias, the Andes. Then finally we arrived at Ushuaia the southern most city in the Americas (and serendipitously the sister city of Barrow, Alaska) where we were to board our Russian Research ship, Vavilov. The Beagle Channel at Ushuaia leading to the Drake Passage promised and threatened as I stared out into the seas that would soon be mine to conquer. There was no denying we were in for an adventure, I just didn’t know what just yet but I had a longing, a craving to get out there and do ‘it’.

03C.UshuaiaAs we boarded the Vavilov and made our way through the Canal seeing Ushuaia fade and the waters open we were told that there was a storm in the Drake and that we should be prepared with whatever medications we would need. We were instructed in the “one hand for the ship” rule of always holding on to something (not doorways) when walking or climbing stairs to prevent falling injuries. A clue as to what to expect, eh?

This was our entree into 2.5 days of turbulent seas, the power of which I had never experienced. My ‘patch’ and meds kept me safely sleeping on and off as the boat was hurled and lifted and slammed. 04. Drake50-foot waves treated the ship like it was a plaything but the Russian crew’s experience kept us navigating the rough waters with exceptional skills. My husband and I would marvel at the rocking of our bed; now we’re on our heads and now on our feet with a shake and rumble in-between and a slam now and again. The strength of the water was unbelievable. Nature in the raw. It was scary but also incredible as we watched the seas pound our cabin windows over and over with visual patterns that were spellbinding.

05. SunriseThen one morning at 3 am the sun rose in its magnificence of reds, pinks, oranges and yellows hitting the snow covered mounds on the land around us and illuminating paths in the water. It was gorgeous. I mean so gorgeous I wanted to sing one of the great ‘glory to god’ hymns. The light was clear, radiant, and transformational all the more so for the darkness we had just passed through. If you ever believed you need darkness to see the light, this was it–the ying and yang of all time.

Then days of dressing in our many layers and undressing and dressing again. Learning how to do a sailor’s handhold into the Zodiacs to cruise or do landings and hikes on the continent. Each outing unique, each one a blessing for the soul. The Antarctic is a wonderment. I was in the grips of awe all the time. So much so that my intellect luckily left me. Usually so curious and wanting to ‘know’ everything I 08.Penquin 07. icebergplayed hooky from most of the lectures by the naturalists and historians aboard. I just wanted to be there, to be present. I did not want to think. Maybe I was being influenced by the unspoiled wildlife–the wonderful penguins, the seals, the whales, the birds. Maybe I didn’t learn all their names and habits but I sure tuned in to their reptilian brain simplicity. What calming bliss.

So I walked and climbed and sat and watched hardly believing I was in this place that was so otherworldly and yet feeling that this is truly our Earth without all the artifices. It is our real world unfiltered, unedited, unchanged. I had such a sense of being small, insignificant, a voyeur watching a big, powerful world unfurl in front of me. This was not a negative feeling. It was a marvel for me to be a small part of this larger incredible world of ours. I felt on a quest to see the truth, to see our planet, to take it in as it is without all our modifications and without my projections or blinders. My heart was big and full the entire trip. It swelled when I saw icebergs as big as apartment buildings, one doing the favor of turning upside down in front of us–wow. When I saw the humpback whales ‘logging’ or sleeping looking like logs I 10. Whalewas tearful in gratitude and humility. Even when I saw a leopard seal kill and eat a penguin I was honored to be a witness to the horror and the naturalness of the violent act. I was in joy!

Eventually returning to the mainland back through the Drake Passage took another 2 and a half daunting days of storms. I returned to my safe bed harbor and rested among the turbulence feeling the glow of being familiar with this, knowing this, and in a crazy way loving it. Sure it was a bit scary to be told by our veteran Captain of 25 years that this was the roughest waters in the Drake of his experience but also feeling so humbled to be a witness to this experience.

06. Landscape 09. SealThe land trip home was dreamlike as my heart remained held by the Antarctic and the transition to my “reality show” was luckily snubbed. It seemed like we were returning home after a long, long trip. I think that we moved into a place so unknown and foreign to us that time was suspended. My primary feeling upon returning was one of being very blessed, privileged and content. I canceled a few pending trips almost feeling like I had finally been where I wanted to go and to travel was not any longer such a driving force for now.

The dramatic images I witnessed in the Antarctic were seen by my artist eyes that reduce things to light, color and form. It’s like squinting when what you’re looking at retains the essence of the viewpoint, not the details. My memory logs how I felt in a “place”. Then there’s the heart factor that imposes itself, impossible to keep at bay.

So back in my home studio I have a mind’s view of black paintings for the granite mountains and white of all shades blanketing them. I also imagine some of my photos and moreover sculptures of the ethereal icebergs unfolding. Ah, maybe that’s where the blues, pinks and yellows will manifest. Then there are the collaborative pieces that my husband, David and I are contemplating. It will all evolve in time as it’s meant to be. Savoring is first. I’m not ready to let go of the savoring just yet. Maybe soon. Maybe the savoring will inform my work. It must don’t you think?

Stay in touch and let’s see what unfolds.

11. nspiration

*Thin places are the places on Earth where the concrete world that we perceive and the spiritual world we believe are thought to touch.

Tag Archives: Residencies

ComPeung-Revisited

There will be a group exhibition entitled, ComPeung-Revisitedcurated by Helen Michaelsen and Ong at the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center, Thailand, December 2-29. Leis will be exhibiting a collaborative piece with David Vogel. To be included in the exhibit is Thai Reflections (below), an archival ink print of Leis’ pen and ink night drawings and Vogel’s water photographs. A catalog will be produced and available in May 2012. The curators are also the co-directors of the ComPeung Artist Residency in Doi Saket, Thailand.

Tag Archives: Residencies

My Artist Residency in Lapland

Lapland is the Northern part of Finland above the Arctic Circle. It is where Santa Claus lives. Several Santa’s. I found my Santa in Rovenimieni where our plane landed before driving to the Artist Residency in Kemijärvi where my husband and photographer, David Vogel, who accompanied me, and I would stay for 5 weeks.

I applied to this residency as it was the one furthest North in Finland. I had seen pictures of the area and it spoke to me of lakes and open spaces, good inspiration for my reductive paintings. What surprised me as we drove the highway to Kemijärvi were the trees lining the road. Different types of forests with birch trees and evergreens predominating, their different heights telling me if they were third or fourth or more growth forests. The impressive thing visually was that this world appeared vertical to me and I had anticipated a horizontal minimal landscape.

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Tag Archives: Residencies