American artists Marguerite Keyes and Scott Alario recently opened an exhibition at Gallery Lost Horse on Skólastræti 1, a small side-street off Bankastræti. Entitled, ‘We Filled Our Pockets Up,’ the exhibition is their first collaborative exhibition in Iceland but the artists, who met in Boston while studying at the Massachusetts College of Art, both live in Reykjavík at the moment.
“We were here last summer visiting friends and had such a good time that we decided to come back. We returned by the end of this summer and will probably stay for about a year,” explains Marguerite. “We share a company [in Iceland] with two of our friends, called Moss Stories, and we wanted to be more part of it. Working abroad made it difficult,” Scott adds.
Moss Stories is a Reykjavík-based independent publishing company and record label established by Marguerite, Scott, Sigur Rós’ Jónsi and Alex Somers. The company’s first publication was Jónsi and Alex’s picture book, Riceboy Sleeps, released in 2006. “We will eventually release some music too. Alex and I are in a band [Parachutes] and Alex and Jónsi [who create art and music together under the name Riceboy Sleeps] are working on a release. Marguerite and I will also continue to make some more stuff and another book is scheduled. We will hopefully do more releases within the company and eventually extend it outside Iceland,” Scott explains.
Inspired by Different Cultures
Scott and Marguerite’s exhibition at the Lost Horse gallery consists of small relics, paintings and drawings. People collecting food in the wilderness, rowboats docked in a quiet creek and portraits of indigenous people are a few examples of the subjects. “We looked at a lot of different cultures like Romanian gypsies, Native Americans or the Sami people,” Scott says when explaining the idea behind the exhibition. “There is this photographer, named Edward Curtis, who documented the Native Americans a little over one hundred years ago. We looked at a lot of his photographs and got inspired to do drawings with a similar feeling.”
They go on to explain that they want to develop a new culture: “We had an idea for a collaborative piece last summer but we never got around doing anything. It was supposed to be focused on this culture we want to create. We wanted to show it through photographs and paintings but it was too big of an idea. But we kept thinking about it. This exhibition is kind of the beginning, the introduction,” Marguerite says. “Like a prologue to this community we eventually want to create and build in our minds,” Scott continues: “The year that we were in Iceland we lived in a big old house with six of our friends that I had known my whole life. We wanted to hold on to this idea, friendship and culture, and how you can make close communities with a small group of people. That’s kind of what it’s all about.”
Ode to the Ancestors
“We wanted to make these really sacred objects that would tell the culture’s stories,” Scott explains. These stories are told through the pieces on display, the neatly cut relics and the drawings framed in small antique picture frames they’ve collected over time. These are objects they like to think people would put in their pockets and bring to their new community. “We filled our pockets with things you can bring with you and things that you might think about bringing with you. A lot of it has to be mental but there are also these physical things you want to wrap up and keep in your pocket,” says Marguerite. Two items exhibited hold a sentimental value, and are the only two pieces not for sale. One is a tiny locket Marguerite has decorated and the other an old game box now used as a picture frame. These are items inherited from their great grandparents. “They kind of connect us to our own ancestors,” Scott says. “It’s like our thanks to the people who are the reason we’re here,” Marguerite adds.
While viewing the artworks, soothing ambient sounds by Riceboy Sleeps set the mood inside the gallery. “We asked [Jónsi and Alex] to have animal sounds and create something rhythmic. We wanted the music to give the exhibition this tribal or naturalistic feeling,” says Scott. And the atmosphere gets dreamlike. Their world is a peaceful one where nature plays a leading role, the total opposite of the stressful, modern city life. Asked if this is the culture they want to create they reply, “Yes definitely. Back to the beginning. Whether it’s after an apocalypse or before. Just living in the grass or something, eating berries.”
The exhibition is open until December 18. On Saturday, December 15 they plan to throw a special ‘Closing Reception’ from 17:00-20:00. Lost Horse gallery is open from 13:00 to 18:00 Tuesday to Sunday or by appointment via 849 4628.