Mary Elizabeth Vance
Mary Elizabeth Vance
Reykjavik, Iceland 2015
I am spending three months in Reykjavik, Iceland, living and working at an artist residency with other artists from around the globe. At SIM, the Association of Icelandic Visual Artists, and Gullkistan in rural Iceland, I will develop a body of interactive artwork that responds to the culture and landscape of Iceland and promotes intercultural dialogue. Read More About Mary Elizabeth →


It has been strange undertaking work in such a unique place as this: far from home but still a home-like setting.  Daily life feels like research and has the quality of adventure – going to the grocery store even an exercise in cultural exploration. I feel very lucky to have been able to contribute to the artistic culture here and understand where all the inspiration comes from.

At the end of this experience, I am tired. But it is the weariness that comes with months of asking difficult questions of myself and my surroundings, and working hard to create some suitable response (I will be updating my website with some video projects as artifacts).

Up until the last point, I felt nervous about leaving. But the last group exhibition of my work in Iceland, seeing pieces of the sum of all my work here – allowed me to see the trajectory of my working process in a holistic way, a way benefitting from hindsight. I tried my hand at some new media and made some pieces I am really proud of, shared those pieces with others. What comes next is seeing what this work means, for myself and others, in new contexts. How I will use my new knowledge of certain processes and media in new contexts – beyond the first forms I have made. It’s the opportune time for a next phase of that creation and exploration.

On my way to the bus station I was a little upset but my taxi driver told me that his father was one of the founding members of SIM – he also said that when you really want to be somewhere you will be, even if not when you think you need to be – and the conversation felt reassuring somehow. And for now it does feel complete, like I accomplished what I came for, and understood better what that even was by the time I left.

I can’t say for sure but I’ll be back, but I know this place has taken the role of a very important bridge in my life – a place of learning, about people, about what I really want to be doing with my art and with my life, and how to do it – I believe I could find myself back here again for it to serve a similar purpose. Iceland was, is pivotal – a place I forgot about time and focused on the shape of things around me – places, people, ideas.

Before this opportunity through Lumos, I never thought Iceland itself was accessible to me. Being here has given me insight into why this place has inspired me from a distance for so much of my life – now firsthand, where the art and the music is made. Iceland, small as it is, taught me much about the role of art in political culture, in all areas of culture, of art outside the gallery space and not only interacting with but integrated seamless into everyday life.

One unique thing about this experience in Iceland is how it has meant so many different and unexpected things – not only art, but the way a group of people can form, can change the climate of a place entirely; how the systems of people interact with the systems of nature but how that relationship is constantly evolving and involving different sets of causes and effects at every turn. What I have learned here can hardly be boiled down to “one thing” – there were certain days I could not even be sure I was still in the same country because of some new weather pattern or new government policy changing how the people I encountered interacted with one another. Iceland’s identity is complex; it holds strong traditions, but is still constantly reshaping its social and political structures. Each month, and often each week was a stage; different weather, different lighting, different places or materials or conversations. The whole of my time here it was changing – and as was I. Daily, I made something, I took something apart, I became something – cycles with no clear systems attached always taking me into literal and figurative places I could never have imagined going before.


One last midnight sunset.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *