Icelandic teacher experimenting in grass art coming to USM

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Photo courtesy of USM Art Department

By Julie Pike, Editor-in-Chief

Continuing their partnership with Iceland, the USM Art Department is welcoming an artist to share Icelandic cultural connections.

Ólöf Nordal, an artist and teacher from the Icelandic University of the Arts, will be at USM for a week to visit art classes, critique students’ work, start research for a residency project for 2020 and discuss a partnership with her university and USM.

A recent project of Nordal, “Experiment on Turf,” “Examines how contemporaries understand the material turf differently from past generations,” she shared on her Facebook in January. “It is an attempt to give turf new meaning and form within contemporary visual art.” She worked with students from the Icelandic University of the Arts in creating the exhibition.

In a story from USM Public Affairs in late March, Nordal described her art as pieces that deal with “Icelandic history and the collective memory of a nation in a critical and analytical way. My artistic research has been focused on the self-identity of a nation in postcolonial times, the origin and the reflection of national motifs in the present and the fragment as a mirror into the past,” she said.

The USM Art Department hosts visiting artists and scholars each year from all over the world, said Jan Piribeck, a professor of digital art and foundations at USM. There is a cross-campus advisory panel to select the artists for each year.

More recently, the university has been partnering and making educational and cultural connections with Iceland. Over spring break, the Free Press reported that an art education class travelled to Iceland for a course on art and education in Iceland.

“It seemed timely to bring in an artist from Iceland whose work tells us about the history and culture of her country and the region,” Piribeck said.

While Nordal’s visit this week will be short-term, Piribeck hopes she will return in 2020 for a longer stay, and will be making plans for a future exhibit at USM.

The Art Department hosts several visiting artists for short-term visits, from 2 to 5 days, as well as one seven week residency each year, Piribeck said. In the fall of 2018, USM had visiting artist Daniel Minter, who showcased his artwork showing the history of Malaga Island, an island off of Casco Bay.

“Students benefit by interacting with a variety of artists who share their expertise and bring a wide range of artistic views to the program,” Piribeck said.

Nordal’s visit is co-hosted by the USM Digital Humanities initiative. Piribeck said that Nordal combines arts with the natural environment, while receiving support from the Icelandic government and businesses in her community.

“Her work fits well with the Digital Humanities initiative to cultivate a balanced reciprocity between culture, commerce and the environment,” she said.

Nordal will also host a public talk and slideshow on Wednesday, April 10 at 5 p.m. in the Glickman Family Library, 7th Floor Events Room. She will be discussing some of her recent work, including experiments with using turf for her art projects.

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