Ágúst Residency

It’s been almost 2 months my artist’s residency in Iceland, the Ágúst Residency. Hosted by the artist Hallveig Ágústsdóttir, I was there with artists Pieter Geenen, Reg Carremans and the writer Lotte Brown. Tucked away in the cozy summerhouse, built by Hallveig’s father, it was a special week with plenty of site research, hiking, rain, sunshine, time in Reykjavík and lively discussions.  Words can’t do the experience justice, so I’ll share few highlights here.

My first impression of Iceland was of space.  The landscape is vast and impressive, with few trees to block the view.  The sense of young geological time pervades the place, and there’s an air of the inhospitable that is completely contradicted by the friendliness of the locals (two- and four-legged).

The grave of my great-grandparents, Inglewood, California. Photo courtesy of my cousin Tom Jonsson.

The grave of my great-grandparents, Inglewood, California. Photo courtesy of my cousin Tom Jonsson.

My great-grandfather, Guðjón Jónsson, was born in Iceland. His birthplace is listed as Öxney, a tiny island near Brokey in the Western Region (Vesturland). I drove to the coast and scoped the island binoculars, and took a few drawn and frottage impressions of the landscape, in an attempt to document the homeland of an ancestor.  He was born in Iceland, emigrated to Canada and then to the United States, and is buried in Inglewood, California. He is buried next to Stefania, his Icelandic descent Canadian wife.  I thought about his life trajectory and the parallels with my own peripatetic life.

Hallveig was kind enough to search my great grandfather on the Íslendingabók, an online compendium of Icelandic geneology, where I was astonished to learn Hallveig and I share common ancestors on both her mother and father’s side, going back to the 1700s. I take it as a sign I was destined to go to Iceland this year and take part in this residency. In the words of T. S. Eliot We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Please keep checking back as I post more pictures and drawings from my time there.