Monday, September 18, 2006

Family Legacy

My father is suing the Icelandic government and has been working on this case for five years and he just left a few minutes ago to travel to Iceland because it is finally going to trial, and I wish him all the best.

My father's grandfather was/is Iceland's most famous painter and my father is suing the government over how his estate was handled.

Johannes S. Kjarval was more then a painter he was also a cultural figure and was often heralded as a living legend. He was an important part of Iceland's romantic movement, that was instrumental in giving a then poor Iceland, the confidence to seek Independence from Denmark. Many of his paintings of Iceland's natural settings helped all of Iceland to see the beauty in what was once thought of as ugly, and some of his greatest paintings are of the bleak but intricacy beautiful lava felids that stretch for miles just outside of Reykjavik.

It was his status as a cultural figure that complicated his relationship with his family, he was after all, a bohemian, and despite the fact that he was at one point Iceland's biggest tax payer, having a large mansion in one of Reykjavik's toniest neighborhoods he opted to instead to stay in his small crapped studio house in downtown Reykjavik where he slept with his work.

There are numerous stories about his eccentricity, he was a very political man, and was infamously known for his politically inspired stunts. He once walked through Reykjavik clad in a suit made out of newspaper and then in another, he invited the prime minister to dinner and a horse who he brought inside to eat at the table which was supposed to be an affront to the prime minister. He was an environmentalist and a great critic of Iceland's whaling tradition which was a very controversial stance at the time, penning numerous poetic pamphlets on whales and they are filled with beautiful poems about the size and shape of whale's hearts.

It was in this mixture of fame, old age and the abstract nature in which an artist views the monetary value of their own art work that the my father's case is based. Upon my great-grandfather's death, the Icelandic government seized 5000 of his works, his bank accounts, his mansion, his studio house, a large farm in the country, and a storage facility filled with his personal possessions and art work. Everything was taken, everything. My grandfather, Kjarval's only son(he had a daughter living in Denmark) tried to contest the fact that the family was not given anything or even consulted. At the time, Iceland was (and still is), a socialist country so he was viewed as an opportunist someone who was greedy, and I think my Grandfather had a complicated relationship with the idea of his father's money because he himself was an and artist and a furniture designer. My Grandfather for whatever reason, but mainly because he lacked support, was not able to contest the fact that the work was taken away from the family. He stepped aside as the estate was divided and dispensed receiving nothing.

The money was divided, much of it went to promote artists within Reykjavik and the rest was used to create a museum in Kjarval's name that was supposed to exhibit his work, and also to serve as a venue for Icelandic painters to show their work, because there had been few in Kjarval's lifetime. Which did happen:Museum Link

There was a lot of 'strange' things that happened around this time, and many of the inner circle who were involved with the dispensing of the estate--- government officials, people who where involved with creating the museum, must younger 'friends'----- benefited personally during this period one became a prime minister and another the president of Iceland's biggest newspaper.

My great grandfather was senile at this death, and there was no written will or consent and most of he men involved with taking the work were half is age.

So let us fast forward to today, where my father is on a flight back home to sue the Icelandic government because he feels that his family was wronged, and I wish him all the luck I can muster.

My father, this spring.

My family has wrestled with this issue because we are proud that his money went to promote the arts in Iceland, and like him, see viewing art as a monetary commodity as difficult, however we all feel strongly that we belong to him and that we should have a say in the preservation of his legacy.

Friday, September 15, 2006

For The Love of Bears

I have always been captivated by large mammals, and I have been drawing and painting them for as long as I remember. In some ways, it is a way for me to connect to them, be closer to them, but it is mostly a love and appreciation for their natural beauty, grace and the fluid sculpture that they are.