I went to Iceland again this year, and there was so much I wanted to write about it and never got around to. Likewise, there were a lot of things I wanted to do when I was in Iceland that I didn’t get to. Determined to maximize my experience, I usually run myself into the ground when I’m there – I’ve gotten sick on every trip so far, and this time I decided to try a more moderate approach. One of the things I missed was the Weather Diaries exhibit at Nordic House.
I arrived in Reykjavik on almost the last day of the show, and although we (I traveled with my husband, another first for this trip) started walking toward the exhibit, we didn’t quite make it. We ended up sprawled in the grass at the top of Tjornin, patting a super furry cat whose name tag said “Egypt.” At the time I considered it a fair trade, and now I’m even more happy with the choice, since Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum is hosting the Weather Diaries right now through November 6.
I went last week, and I’m so glad I did. I was able to spend a lot more time than if I had gone in Reykjavik and felt like I had a lot of other things to see. It is best that I was able to see it that way, because it is a beautiful exhibit that deserves a slow, thoughtful viewing. I wanted to buy the catalog (I never buy the catalog) but it was sold out.
What is the Weather Diaries?
The Weather Diaries is, basically, an art exhibit. Duh. But it’s not an easy one to pin down. The artists, Sarah Cooper & Nina Gorfer, collaborated on this assignment from Nordic House in Reykjavik. The assignment related to fashion and the three island areas of the Western Nordic region: Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. For two-years, they worked with designers and fabricators from those countries, including:
From Iceland –
JÖR by Guðmundur Jörundsson
Hrafnhildur Arnardòttir a.k.a. Shoplifter
From the Faroe Islands –
From Greenland –
But they did so much more than curate fashion designs. Exploring the way their work was shaped by culture, traditions, and surroundings of the islands, they developed an exhibit including very little that could be worn as clothing, but several more sculptural pieces resemble items of clothing or play with the concept of dress. Besides curating the collection of objects, Cooper and Gorter used pieces created by the designers in artworks of their own – portraits of models and characters that go a beyond fashion editorial.
Their identified themes shared by designers from all three nations are isolation, limited resources, wild nature, and unpredictable weather. The images of Cooper and Gorter are dark (even when brightly lit), moody, and atmospheric in a way that evokes the wild changeability of the natural environment they reference.
What I Thought
As I walked through the exhibit, I couldn’t always tell if there was a narrative, or if particular pieces were making a specific point. But I found every single one to be mysterious and engaging, often romantic or sinister or both. They reminded me of James Christensen or Remedios Varo, old Renaissance portraits and also of the movie Labyrinth and Brian Froud and Alan Lee’s book of Faeries that I studied so assiduously as a child. I don’t mean to imply that they actually resemble any of these, but that they pulled me in with the same sense of mystery and romance balanced by an undercurrent of confusion and danger that those artists inspired in me at various times in my life.
Fashion is of very little interest to me, either as a means of personal self-expression through dress or as an artistic medium. But Weather Diaries is one of the most haunting art exhibits I have seen in years. If you’re anywhere near Seattle, I highly recommend checking it out before it leaves on November 6, and if you live somewhere else, keep an eye out for the Weather Diaries on tour. You can see some images from the exhibit on their web page, or follow the artists on Instagram.