Artists from BYU and Around the World Met in Iceland to Collaborate in Unfamiliar Territory
Diverse artists contribute to ongoing projects related to the theme, “Odd Nature”
November 27, 2019
For the past 10+ years, a group of BYU professors— including Gary Barton (Art), Jen Watson (Art), Joseph Ostraff (Art), Linda Reynolds (Design) and Claudine Bigelow (Music) — have been collaborating with various artists across the U.S. and throughout the world. After a conversation between a few fellow collaborators — Ostraff, Nuala Clarke from Ireland, Karina Hean from Sante Fe, New Mexico and Ostraff’s wife Melinda Ostraff — the idea of “Odd Nature” was born.
The idea evolved into a project where a team of 23 artists— including six students from BYU, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Wirral Met College— gathered in Iceland to explore the relationship between humans and the natural world and the impact they have on each other. Each artist specializes in multiple disciplines, including painting, drawing, printmaking, letterpress, book arts, video, performance art, installation work, design and music.
Ostraff knew he was bringing together some strong and committed artists in Iceland, so he sat back and watched their creative projects develop organically.
“I went into the project not wanting to be heavy-handed about what I thought should happen,” Ostraff said. “It will be an ongoing partnership that’s very organic and a lot bigger than I anticipated.”
The purpose of the Iceland trip was specifically to expand the term, “Odd Nature.” Participants held thought-provoking discussions that created space for people to explore the theme from a broad range of angles. Group activities included performing in nature as if climbing on flat land, making art based on sound and collaborating on a series of drawings that were passed to a new artist each evening.
Because Iceland was unfamiliar territory for everyone involved, “nobody was on their own turf,” Ostraff said. “That compelled us to go through this experience together and created some really interesting chemistry.”
As is typical for these types of collaborations, students were regarded as full partners in the creative process. BFA student Jeffery Hampshire—one of four BYU students who were invited to participate in the Iceland trip—discovered lasting ties and an unforgettable experience.
“The Iceland trip was great because the students there were mixed with professional artists,” Hampshire said. “We did projects together, but the main purpose was to set parameters for a future project.”
For Hampshire, the vision of his future changed because of the transpired events in Iceland.
“I feel like an actual artist now,” he said. “The experience in Iceland has changed the way I’ll continue on future projects. I pictured myself as an artist working alone in a studio, but now I see a future of collaboration being a major part of my work.”
The next step in this collaboration is for each artist—including students—to develop an idea related to the “Odd Nature” theme and share it with the group. Their fellow artists will then make art in response to that concept, and the person who conceived the original idea will curate a show for their community using everyone’s work.
“I pictured myself as an artist working alone in a studio, but now I see a future of collaboration being a major part of my work.”
Parameters for shows are broad, so long as the ideas address a general theme of geography, human geography and place, Ostraff said. The first of these shows took place in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this fall, and was curated by Hean.
In addition to establishing opportunities for the artists to collaborate on future projects, “Odd Nature” models diverse people coming together to create something beautiful.
“We hope people will find themselves in the project,” Ostraff said. “There were a lot of different people with different beliefs who came together to make ‘Odd Nature’ possible. The civility in the room allowed for people to collaborate even if they didn’t agree or have similar lifestyles and backgrounds, but they did agree to be kind, thoughtful, civil people.”
The work was made possible through the generous support of The Ballinglen Arts Foundation and Brigham Young University.
Some of the art created in response to the ``Odd Nature`` theme