Curator, Writer, and Museum Administrator
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Life in the Land

Life in the Land: Art by Anna Líndal and Erling Sjovold

Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature, University of Richmond Museums, and International Gallery, Carole Weinstein International Center, February 19 through April 26, 2015

The exhibition The Life in the Land features recent work by Anna Líndal (Icelandic, born 1957) and Erling Sjovold (American, born 1961). Líndal lives and works in Reykjavik, Iceland, and creates installation, video, and mixed media art that addresses themes of exploration, gender, national identity, and the production of knowledge by both artists and scientists. Sjovold, Associate Professor of Art, University of Richmond, creates paintings and photographs that consider the materiality and history embedded, conveyed, and lost within the glaciers of Iceland. Across both artists’ work is a persistent quest to understand the imperceptible, proposing a role for the artist within society’s drive towards knowledge.

The title of the exhibition comes from a passage in an artist’s book from 2014 by Líndal, which reads,

"The earth is restless in Iceland. Some form of movement, often within a volcano or glacier, which occasionally leads to more serious unrest. The life of the land is always with MTG and me, both at home and when we travel together. It is some form of a presence, which takes up space, perhaps like a third person in the relationship."

This restlessness or inner-life of Iceland’s landscape, with its distinctive geography of volcanoes, glaciers, lava fields, and beaches, has been the subject of much of Líndal’s work. Participating in annual expeditions with the Icelandic Glaciological Society since 1997, Líndal considers how the environment is empirically studied and recorded, questioning the verity of measuring the land without also measuring ourselves within it. On a recent expedition to the Grímsvötn volcano, which last erupted in 2011, Líndal swam in the large water-filled crater while others in her party used mechanical and digital devices to study the lake, using her body as a measuring device to experience the icy cold conditions and buoyancy of the water, as pictured in one of the images in the exhibition. An earlier multi-channel video installation in the show, “Borders,” from 2000, addresses the deep kinship between Iceland’s sense of national identity and its landscape, probing the separations maintained between nature and the body, natural resources and the domestic, and between the land and its various representations.

Sjovold’s work in this exhibition was inspired by a summer 2013 residency at the Hafnarborg Centre of Culture and Fine Art, Hafnarfjörŏur, Iceland. In the Lora Robins Gallery are works on paper featuring watercolor, acrylic, and black sand gathered on the beaches of Vík, the southernmost village in Iceland. As in the art by Líndal, Sjovold’s ethereal images of glaciers, some in brilliant hues and others primarily in cool blues and whites, relate to the theme of perpetual restlessness in the land, recalling the chunks of ice floating in Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon in southeast Iceland. All of the artist’s work in this exhibition was created within the past year, including a large site-specific triptych that encompasses an entire wall, filling one’s line of vision with watery shapes that become darker and more inscrutable and less delineated as the image progresses from left to right. At the International Gallery, Sjovold created a two-dimensional photographic installation titled “Glyphs and Glaciers,” featuring images of Icelandic glacier fragments and of Egyptian hieroglyphics from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, suggesting a relationship between these two forms as texts that record a history of place, one by natural forces and the other by humans.

From February 16 through the 27th, Líndal was a visiting artist at the University of Richmond, participating in the exhibition’s opening events and engaging with The Parking Lot Project, a university-wide, collaborative, interdisciplinary, site-specific creative project led by Sjovold and executed by UR students, faculty, and staff that meditates on environmental sustainability. 

Organized by the University of Richmond Museums, the exhibition was curated by N. Elizabeth Schlatter, Deputy Director and Curator of Exhibitions, University Museums, and Kenta Murakami, ’15, art history major, University of Richmond, and the 2014-2015 Curatorial Assistant, University Museums. The exhibition and programs are made possible in part with the support of the University’s Cultural Affairs Committee and the Office of International Education. All images and artworks courtesy of the artists.