Sacred Space Rituals

As part of a three-day workshop at the FISH FACTORY CREATIVE CENTRE for preteens from East Iceland. I designed a series of three sacred space rituals that all the attendees were invited to participate in each day.

Alters for the Four Elements

DAY ONE: ALTERS FOR THE FOUR ELEMENTS COMBINED WITH SPIRIT
I placed alters in the room at North, South, East, West and Center coordinates. All was invited to add to the alters. I shared my insight about the elements and they shared theirs with a particular focus on Iceland. We discussed the characteristics of each, our natural affinity for a particular, and the wholeness of them all. Children were especially keen on talking about animals and the element that represented them. Over the course of the workshop I photographed the alters individually.

North is the earth element. It is the color green. It represents midnight and winter. It is the place of greatest darkness. It is caves, mountains, garments, groves, and plains. The characteristics are strength, wealth, body and form.

South is fire element. It is the color red. It represents the moon and summer. It is the place of greatest heat. It is the sun, stars, deserts, volcanoes and lightning. The characteristics are courage, will and passion.

East is air element. It is the color yellow. It represents dawn and spring. It is the place of greatest light. It is the sky, wind, high places, vibrations, and clouds. The characteristics are breath, wind, music, and intellect.

West is water element. It is the color blue. It represents twilight and autumn. It is the place of the setting sun. It is fog, tides, snow, lakes, wells, rivers, oceans, and rain. The characteristics are compassion, feelings, dreams, intuition.

More photos of the FOUR ELEMENTS ALTERS.

Dream Catcher and Dream Box

DAY TWO: DREAMS
I added to the room a giant dream catcher and a dream box and asked attendees to write down there dreams on sheets of paper and slide them into the box without writing their name. I discussed with the children the story behind the dream catcher and the importance of recognizing and verbalizing their dreams in sleeping and waking life.

More photos of the DREAM CATCHER AND DREAM BOX.

Medicine Wheel

DAY THREE: MEDICINE WHEEL
I added to the room with local crystals and rocks creating the shape of a medicine wheel that included the Earth, Fire, Air and Water alters. I asked the children to come up with an animal for each stone that best represented its position to the alters in the wheel. For example if it is a stone between water and earth to find an animal that possess both of these characteristic, for example a polar bear who lives both in water and on land. We also included animals from Icelandic folklore and stories.

More photos of the MEDICINE WHEEL.

Artist Residency at Ilulissat Kunstmuseum


On May 6th-20th,  I am an artist in residence at the Ilulissat Kunstmuseum which features the works of Emanuel A. Petersen and of contemporary Greenlandic, Danish and foreign artists. This beautiful building that I am so privileged to be living in and working in was once the residence of the “Colony Manager” in 1923. Here lived five different colony managers and later a trading company. In 1995 it became an art museum which is the first for Greenland. There also is a group of women called Seqineq (sun) who meet regularly in the museum to paint the surroundings. On the property there is a garden which is as old as the building an important resource for the residents. The curator and the residency program manager is Ole Gamst-Pedersen.

The project I am working on is about identity and connecting to ancestors, from a mixed race perspective of White and American Indian. Specifically coming from a tribe (Lumbee Indian) that is not recognized by the US government and the complications that come with this. I was curious to find out what it was like for those in Greenland especially those that are half Danish and half Greenlandic, their struggles with identity. How does the culture and traditions live on after colonization? Is there similarities between the struggles of Native Americans in the states and the Inuit struggles in Greenland? The more I found out the more questions I have. Visit my website lauraarena.com for more about this project.

I spent my endless days of light looking out the window watching the boats move in an out of the harbor. Introducing myself and my project to large groups of museum visitors. Drinking coffee and learning about Greenlandic/Danish ways from Ole and his beautiful wife Trine. Living in an art museum with painting of icebergs and old ways of the past. Taking long hikes where Icebergs are made, visiting the local businesses and being equally scared and intrigued by the sledge dogs all around. Greenland is a strange, beautiful, and somewhat a dangerous place. A place I am more aware of my own fragility and the true force of nature.

For more information visit http://www.ilukunstmus.gl/en/.

The Spiral Dance Installation and Ceremony

Coming together at sunset with a view of the sea, at the Fish Factory Creative Centre in Stöðvarfjörður, Iceland, I hosted a ceremony along with Sif Yraola. We joined together in The Spiral Dance – a Meditation on the Ghosts of our DNA, along with the beat of a drum, thanks to Tom Allon. We explored our inner DNA and the mysteries it holds of those that gave life to us and walked before.

I created a sculpture of old nets used for drying fish, relics of the fishing industry of yesteryear, found at the factory. This sculpture is approximately 10 ft. tall with more than 600 candles and composed of 200+ nets.

A tribute to our DNA and to our ancestors before us. My intention to create an atmosphere for movement, ceremony and contemplation. The shape, similar to DNA, also happens to resemble the symbol of my ancestral tribe, the Lumbee Indians.

Questions we pondered;

  • What is DNA?
  • What is passed on through our DNA?
  • How are “survival instincts” passed on through generations?
  • What other kinds of experiences might be saved in our DNA?
  • Is it possible that DNA holds important memories of our ancestors?
  • Can our DNA reveal experiences of previous generations long before our present time?
  • Reveal fears? Reveal trauma? Reveal blessings? Reveal patterns?
  • Can this information be accessed by us, here and now?
  • Have there been times you instinctively knew information without learning it?
  • Have you ever known about a historical event without physically being there?
  • Have you experienced deja vu?
  • Have been to a place for the first time that is completely familiar?
  • Felt a strong connection to something without clearly understanding why?
  • Met someone you just seem to already know?

During the ceremony we stopped and looked into each others eyes and then we moved together in unison.

We are the past as much as we are the future. We need to listen to our inner DNA. To conduct our own personal research and to find out for ourselves; to listen to the voices, feelings, sights and experiences of our ancestors. Their joys and fears are within us. In that way our ancestors are with us always.

Fish Factory in Stöðvarfjörður, Iceland Artist Residency

I am an artist-in-residence at the Fish Factory Creative Centre in Stöðvarfjörður for the months of March/April 2016. In March, I am with two other artists, Lana Schneider, a visual artist from Belgium and David James Andrew, a poet from England. In April, I am with Morgan Murphy, a visual artist from USA and Sine Lindholm, a visual artist/architect from Denmark.

Stöðvarfjörður is an extremely remote village in the East fjords of Iceland. See how remote it is. In 2011, the Creative Centre was established when an abandoned Fish Factory was acquired by the founders, Icelanders, Czech, Irish among others. They began the journey of creating a thriving, creative, community with a focus on the arts, craftsmanship and music in this beautiful place.

The Creative Centre is an ongoing collaborative project supported by volunteers, the surrounding community and a very determined staff. All based on sustainable principles and alternative methods and includes a recording studio, performance space, wood working space, sewing station, studios and more than I can mention.

In many ways I am surrounded by “my people” at the Creative Centre. Even though the landscape is remarkably different from mine in New York City. It is all familiar. Artists creating community. Artists serving community. Artists serving artists. Artists building artist spaces. I feel quite at home here, inspired by the magnitude of this project and by the individuals involved. My time spent is a time of personal, spiritual and artistic growth. I am extremely grateful to share this experience through this project and with the community here.

AIR Vela Straža Artist Residency – Šolta Island, Croatia

I took part in a focus group in preparation for an artist residency program “AIR Vela Straža” located in old Yugoslavian Military barracks high up in the hills of Šolta Island in the Adriatic Sea south of Split. The residency, still in its planning stages by artist, and assistant professor at the Academy of fine arts in Zagreb, Marina Bauer and artist Ivana Ognyanovac with collaboration with Green Action a leading non-governmental organization for environmental protection in Croatia. Green Actions hosts several workshops over the summer for activists and young people to come together to discuss and problem solve challenging environmental concerns.

Stone walls in olive grove in  Šolta Island, Croatia
Stone walls in olive grove in Šolta Island, Croatia
Destroyed Old Stone Walls
Destroyed old stone walls to make way for contemporary gardening in Šolta Island, Croatia

The artist residency adds a new layer to Green Action’s programming providing 15 artists the opportunity to work in a remote, natural setting to contemplate and work in response to local environmental issues including the destruction of local, old stonewalls to make way for contemporary gardening or inspired by topics covered by Green Action, such as solar energy.

“AIR Vela Straža” is a two week artist residency, the planned dates for 2016 is July 19th – July 2. Artists will be invited and have an opportunity to apply late winter or early spring. More information will be announced next year.

New AiR for Artists & Coordinators Seminar – Aroundless Artist Residency

I was invited by Stan Coenders for a seminar New AiR for Artists & Coordinators as part of Aroundless Artist Residency at MeetingInZdonov in Czech Republic. The artists featured in this month long program are Carlota Borges Lloret, Marta Silva, Guida Miranda, Andrea Junekova, Palii Anastasia, Bogdan Pavlovic, Janine Leger, and Sandra Franco.

What amazingly talented young artists and such a beautiful community at what appears to be at the end of the world or at least in Czech Republic. We look forward to seeing the results of this special one month program and look forward to working with some of these artists in the future.

MeetingInZdonov reopened its doors to artists in residence in July 2015. Heart of the project is the large rural house that after a long process of restructuring, offers reception areas and workareas for workshops and lectures. The project is constantly changing, and this year its shape will be given by a diverse community that is connected to a larger and varied network, including intensive coaching by experienced artists and curators and visits to other art activities in the region where many other artists are involved, and a seminar about art residencies.

Inside Zone Artist Residency – Romania


I was invited to participate in Inside Zone Artist Residency in Romania, a poetry and visual artist festival in Transylvania at the Casa de Cultura, Strada Carpati on May 17, 2015.

An exhibition concluding this two-week residency in Borsec, Romania, along with Sophia Gardiner, Waalko Dingemans, Christina Marie Jespersen, Larissa Mellor, Ivana Ognjanovac, Mary Opasik, Paul Simmons, Mare Suljak and Nuri FY, and poets Florin Dan Prodan, Corina Bernic and Radu Andriescu.

The work I created for Inside Zone Exhibition are “Exercises in Letting Go” is the most intimate work I have made as an artist. Revisiting a place, facing memories, memorializing a relationship, reflecting and then letting go. I worked with found materials in a meditative state; the repetition of writing and fastening and finding kept my body in movement to open my heart and my mind.

For more information visit Inside Zone Residency web site.