“I found that one has a lot of time to think and reflect here (in Ólafsfjörður, Iceland), and the insights gained from that are extremely valuable.”
~ Deanna Pizzitelli, our host artist from Skammdegi Festival 2017-2018
1. Can you share with us your background and how it relates to your artistic practice?
Sure. I am a Canadian photo-based artist, originally from Toronto. I began my education in Political Science, although quickly switched to Fine Arts after one year. I did my BFA at Ryerson University in Toronto, in the School of Image Arts. It was a program devoted to Film, Photography & New Media. After that, I did my MFA at the University of Arizona, in the Photography Department. There I experimented with some installation, letterpress and bookbinding work.
I’ve held a range of jobs over the years: a lot of waitressing work, some positions in university administration, hotel & tourism, as well as a lot of teaching. In Arizona, I instructed at the undergraduate level – mostly courses in photo theory and history. I later taught ESL in Slovakia, and more recently taught art to kids in Canada. Sometimes my job directly relates to my practice, and other times it does not. In my experience, it is the most interesting jobs that inspire my practice, regardless of whether they are based in the arts. These jobs provide interesting life experiences that influence my work – bartending is a good example of this.
2. Can you tell us more about your work?
I am mainly a photo-based artist with an interest in analogue practices and a specific focus on the silver gelatin print. Historical processes and experimental darkroom techniques are another huge component of my work. In general, I am interested in the contemporary expression of analogue practices, and I work namely in what I term the emotional landscape – themes of longing, loss, uncertainty and desire.
Travel, when possible, is a huge source of inspiration. I see my work, in many ways, as the visual residue of my many intersections with landscape, wildlife and culture.
3. Why did you decide to join the Skammdegi Festival?
I’ve become more interested in community events and outreach. The first time I was here, I participated in some workshops and really enjoyed it. Being a part of a festival, especially as a host artist, seemed like a nice opportunity to get some work experience, and also to interact with the community.
4. Is Listhús your first residency?
I have been to five residencies overall: two at Listhús, two at Sparkbox Studios in Canada, and one in Cerdeira Village in Portugal. All residencies are different. Sparkbox Studies has production facilities – when I go there, I work primarily in these facilities, doing silkscreen and letterpress work. At Listhús, the studio is more appropriate for free-hand work: painting and drawing. I use my time at Listhús to experiment in mediums I don’t normally work in, but also to shoot film and collect material for my photographic practice. Another thing I do is finish important applications. Administration is a huge part of an artist’s practice, and I always devote time at residencies to catch up on that.
So, to summarize your question, I spend my time at differently at different residencies depending on what specific facilities are offered. I find that each residency has something unique to offer.
5. Is Skammdegi Festival the first festival you participated in?
Skammdegi is not my first festival that I have participated in, but it is the first festival that I have participated in as part of a residency program. I have exhibited work as part of the CONTACT Photography Festival in Toronto, Canada. This is an annual festival during the month of May, in which the city of Toronto celebrates photography at a wide range of venues.
The experience is quite different at Skammdegi. CONTACT is a city-wide festival in a large metropolis. Thousands of people are involved. The festival at Skammdegi is more close-knit. I’m involved in various aspects of the Skammdegi festival, as opposed to simply being an exhibiting artist. As a result, I am working more closely with the community here in Iceland than I was in Toronto.
Years ago, I also volunteered with the Magenta Arts Foundation and assisted with the Flash Forward Festival in Boston. I was not an exhibiting artist, but rather helped with promotion and customer assistance. My experience at Skammdegi is more comprehensive than my other festival experience.
6. How do you feel after living in Ólafsfjörður/Iceland for a month (December) so far?
I think it has been a healthy experience. I enjoy the winter and the cold. Both visits to the Icelandic winter have been an extremely reflective time for me. The dark, of course, can be difficult and even emotional. Still, I find that one has a lot of time to think and reflect here, and the insights gained from that are extremely valuable.
7. What is your plan for the second half of Skammdegi, in January?
This month I will focus on my projects for Skammdegi. I imagine that I will stay in Ólafsfjörður and try to stick to a strict schedule so that I can meet all my deadlines. I am also trying to cultivate a meditation practice, so I will focus on that as well.
8. What are you going to create/present during Skammdegi Festival?
I am actually working on a little animation! I’ve never done one before, but last month I had the idea to draw Northern Light Monsters – little monsters whose bodies are the outlines of Northern Light shapes. I am currently working on a little sculpture, an animation and some drawing that I would like to exhibit. It’s a fun and playful project that I hope will be enjoyable for the local audiences, especially the children.
9. What is your plan for 2018?
I have several professional projects in the works for 2018. I will return to Canada for three or four months, and then join my partner, Jakub, in Slovakia. I would very much like to exhibit my work in Iceland, although have no plans to do so at this time. During 2018, I will be participating in at least three exhibitions in Canada.
10. Anything you want to share with us?
Thanks for having me!
Deanna Pizzitelli is a visual artist from Canada who is interested in the emotional landscape. She uses analogue processes to explore themes of fantasy, desire, longing and loss. Her practice is often motivated by the act of travel, the visual residue of her many intersections with landscape, wildlife and culture.