Youth is Not Skin Deep

Its been six months since I’ve written anything on this blog about our film, A Force in Nature: Jóhann Eyfells. It was also six months ago when I thought I would lose my house, and be forced to move due to financial challenges and joblessness. I think the last time I was ever faced with the possibility of being without a home was exactly 30 years ago, during the Writers’ Strike in Hollywood, when my total gross yearly income had barely reached $9,000. 2017 was both a very challenging year for me financially as well as rewarding creatively. In fact, if it wasn’t for my special friendship to this exceptional man, Jóhann Eyfells and experiencing the extraordinary life force he has within, I might not be here today writing about it. Of course, I won’t ignore the generosity and support I also received from own family and friends

This confession is not so much out of a self-abasement then it is out of an earnest look at my own humanity, my own frailty and fear of loneliness in the face of aging in this country.

Growing old in the United States is synonymous of becoming more and more invisible, and becoming expendable and nonessential, unlike most other cultures. I’ve always known this about our own American culture, but never felt the affects of it until I began losing my hair and feeling the weight of my awkward, out of shape, aging body on this earth. Its as if at a flick of a switch the world no longer saw me as relevant. On the outside, through social media like Facebook and Instagram, people could perceive me as being happy in life and somewhat successful, being a father of two beautiful children, a new business owner, a homeowner (mortgage owner), a filmmaker having just completed a film, and receiving small accolades for it. However, on the inside I was quickly losing my hold on everyday life, watching myself physically deteriorate, and my sense of self worth was at an all time low. At 56, I was feeling the grip of loneliness and isolation (self-imposed and otherwise) tightening around me, and most importantly I had come to realize a hard truth about myself. I was dying.

I became acquainted with Jóhann Eyfells exactly 13 years ago to the day, 10 years of which I spent documenting and filming his intimate and creative life. I don’t claim to know everything about him, but what I have come to understand is that even at his advanced age he represents everything that I would consider youthful, vibrant and alive. In fact, after being exposed to him, I clearly saw that the concept of ‘youth’ in this country is merely superficial and skin deep, and that young people and old alike would profoundly benefit from experiencing the life force and spirit that constantly emanates from individuals like Jóhann. I am convinced that at 95 he is the poster child for youth, vitality and strength, and anyone who claims otherwise is simply foolish. Men or women his age and younger would usually resign themselves to complacency, and often look to the nostalgia of the past or fantasy of the future just so they don’t have to be reminded of their present state of being almost dead. Jóhann lives in and for the present moment, in which the past and future are merely part of a larger continuum, and death is simply an expression of life itself in its full splendor, giving way to another birth.

Why is there such a chasm between young and old in this country? Are we so distrustful of each other that we cannot tolerate each other or even listen to each other speak? As long as I can remember, this common perception of youth as being synonymous with strength and stamina is the foundation of our modern consumer society. Its no accident that Coca Cola’s long commercial success is thanks to their ability to manipulate their audience emotionally through the magic of film and imagery, whose brand advocates ‘youth’ and ‘vitality’, and has done so for decades, shaping our collective consciousness to ignore and sideline the aging. I am not blaming it all on Coke and other corporate advertisers, since there is something called ‘free will’ and we all have the ability to use it. However, there is something to be said about the manipulative and tantalizing power and soullessness of commercial television and consumerism, which if constantly consumed, eventually erodes at our own ability to be discerning, unaffected and even motivated. I’ve been working in this industry since my mid twenties, so I say this with some authority on the matter. If Coke’s advertising efforts and genius could be refocused on healing our ailing planet and building bridges between generations instead of marginalizing one generation by championing another, I might even consider buying a bottle.

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Last week on Christmas Day, my own two children and I went to visit Jóhann at his sculpture ranch near Fredericksburg, Texas, as I had done for the very first time, exactly 13 years ago. My son at the time was only six months old. Now, he is 13 1/2. Walking through this large playground full of massive and imposing sculptures, I found it to be both interesting and very satisfying that my own son and Jóhann were both animated and visibly engaged philosophically over one of his recent sculptural pieces. What I also found to be quite uncanny, was how they both inspired one another, and that their ‘youthfulness’ was glaringly noticeable.

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In all of the time I’ve known Jóhann, interviewed him, and experienced his person, I have always come away inspired and rejuvenated. Its not to say that he is immune to low moments as a result of his solitary life, but loneliness and depression has not in the least waned his insatiable curiosity of life and his feverish dedication to the creative process as an artist and visionary.

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This time, I came away realizing the one reason why I was initially captivated by this man upon first meeting him, which subsequently led to our lasting friendship, and to dedicating 10 years of my life to making a documentary film about his life as an artist. Not only was he a source of vitality for my own tumultuous and sometimes ‘hopeless’ life, but he represents everything I would associate with youth and vitality, which I have spent most of my adult life trying to reconnect with, such as the innocence and curiosity of a child, the heart and soul of being human, and my own creative life force, among other things.

As a filmmaker, I am happy to say that the film does capture some of the magic I experienced first hand with Jóhann. Upon meeting him or seeing the film, it might inspire others, young and old alike, to understand that youth does not have to be merely skin deep, but rather an expression of joy and life.

This film is now available for public screening. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in hosting such a screening event in your home town theatre, school, museum, or even private space.

email: filmmakershowcase@gmail.com

phone: (512) 966-9299

https://www.facebook.com/AForceInNature/

 

Coming Home

IMG_1701I don’t know whether to jump up in joy or cry in disbelief or both. In the Icelandic news, Jóhann Eyfells’ sculpture “Íslandsvarðan” has been officially acquired by the city of Reykjavik for a rather substantial sum of money, and is now to remain as a permanent installation on Faxaflói (Faxa Bay), on the northwest side of the capital city.

Why is this so important?

This is a huge victory for Jóhann Eyfells, an Icelandic sculptor, now almost 95, who has spent more than 70 years living in a semi self-imposed exile from his own childhood home and family.

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Jóhann at 94 (Photo by Tracy Costello)

With the expectation of helping with the family business upon his return, Jóhann at 23 was sent away to America by his mother to study Business Administration at U.C. Berkeley, California. Once there, everything changed. He would meet, Kristin, his eternal companion and wife of 56 years, and would eventually, contrary to ‘family expectations’ pursue a childhood passion for the creative process and find expression as a sculptor. For a short period, he would return to Iceland only to find himself misunderstood creatively and eclipsed by a younger generation of artists. America would become his permanent artist residence, both in Orlando, Florida and eventually Fredericksburg, Texas.

It’s a victory for artists all over the world, in which to create, to dedicate yourself entirely to the creative process does not always mean being spurned, tossed aside and forgotten.

2017_8_Sculpture9smIt’s a huge victory for Iceland, welcoming one of it’s own, ushering back the clarity and fine instinct that artists like Jóhann possess and who are able to intuitively channel the ‘unknowing’ in their creative processes, and boldly execute in their artistic expressions and bodies of work. No less important is Jóhann’s uncanny ability to find diverse means, expressions and materials to articulate his ideas and vision. Furthermore, his work also embodies everything that is intrinsically Icelandic in nature, such as the ongoing fluidity of the physical forces, destructive and creative, that give form and understanding to the human experience.

It’s a victory for art, that a sculpture like “Íslandsvarðan” is recognized for its intrinsic and aesthetic significance, in a world where ‘value’ in art often seems arbitrary and is dependent on the piece’s commercial and monetary success, a commodity to be traded by only those who can afford to buy it, not to enjoy it for it’s genuine artistic expression and depth. Are we turning a corner in the 21st century, where art and creative expression could be considered a critical part of our own human survival?

Who am I to judge, I am just another human being that finds individuals like Jóhann to be inspirational, who also give me pause to reflect and reason to go on living, joyfully.

Hayden de M. Yates (Co-Producer and Director of A Force in Nature)


A Force in Nature, as of September 2018, will be seen in select theaters and venues throughout North America, Canada and the US.

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For more details on future screenings and exhibitions email us at: filmmakershowcase@gmail.com or call (512) 966-9299.

 

 

 

 

We did it! “Best Documentary Film”

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Our film had its US premiere in Fredericksburg, Texas. It had a tremendous reception. It won the “Best Documentary” category at the 2017 Hill Country Film Festival. As the director and co-producer, I cannot say enough about the experience of watching our own film, A Force in Nature, in front of a live audience. It was a very moving and emotional moment, probably the most satisfying I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.

What a way to introduce this film to the world. It had its American premiere in Fredericksburg, Texas, the very spot where the film began filming, almost 10 years ago. On September 28 – October 8, 2017 the film will have it’s European Premiere at the Reykjavik International Film Festival where Jóhann Eyfells was born. This promises to be quite a homecoming for the artist and his priceless body of work.

 

World Premier at the 2017 Hill Country Film Festival – April 27-30

 

I don’t know if I am awake or dreaming any of this, or if in fact the making of our film, A Force in Nature, has reached its final conclusion, giving way to a new phase in the film’s life cycle. We helped it along through its conception and development, and now it’s about to be born out for the world to see and experience for the first time.

Finishing A Force in Nature was undoubtedly a personal challenge for me. Through the course of the ten years of production/post-production, I would often wonder if it would ever get finished, especially since this film was mostly self-funded. The close collaboration I had with co-producer and editor Vishwanand Shetti (aka. V.) during the past 6 years was not only an extraordinary opportunity to learn the art of perseverance and patience with getting the project finished, but also afforded V. and I the space to explore the depths of Jóhann’s life and his thought provoking art installations.

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The 2017 Hill Country Film Festival will be where the film will have its first public exhibition on Saturday, April 29. For me personally, this process of making this film has also fostered a long and lasting collaborative friendship with both V and Jóhann Eyfells, who continue to have an unwavering influence on me as a human being and artist.

Being an artist is nothing short of insanity, yet its the type of insanity the world needs right now, desperately! Its the right kind of insanity, in which we are challenged to allow ourselves to experience the unexpected and spontaneous, and be aware of the forces that keep us complaisant and indifferent. When taking action or making a gesture, an artist does so without hesitation because he/she knows that the expression itself has to be authentic and immediate. The artist does not allow fear to dictate the decisions and choices he/she makes, but rather fear is merely there to signal that an action and/or thought is to take place.

As is often the case, when in the presence of Jóhann, one is constantly put to the intellectual test. Recently, Jóhann Eyfells and I discussed the difference between the concepts of “instinct” and “intuition”. He asked me if I knew the difference. Hesitantly, I responded that I thought I had good intuition and instinct and admittedly used both words interchangeably, not really aware of the difference. Jóhann was quick to point out the difference to me, explaining that “instinct”, which comes from deep within our nature to feel, is spontaneous and tireless, while “intuition”, which is more connected with intellectual reasoning, is more deliberate and sluggish. That got me thinking. Once more Jóhann challenges me to get in the ring and participate in the fight against complacency, and to do that, I must be willing to jump headfirst into the dark abyss, in other words, the unknown.

Do you know the difference between “instinct” and “intuition?”

Hayden de M. Yates (director and co-producer)

Visit HillCountryff.com and book your festival passes now. A Force in Nature will be screening on Saturday, April 29 at 11am.

My life with Jóhann

It is a rare moment when I can fully reflect on my life and acknowledge how a single human being has significantly influenced my life.  But after almost 10 years of knowing Jóhann Eyfells, as an artist and a human being, I have finally managed to do just that.

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The art of Johann Eyfells is not an embodiment of the person but rather an expression of  something beyond the person, beyond the rational constructs of modern civilization that have shaped our physical lives. When you stand and face an Eyfells’ sculpture be prepared to be intellectually, psychically and spiritually challenged. You are about to enter a reality that is both unfamiliar and irrational. It is truly the unknown, seemingly chaotic, which most of us will avoid at all costs.

I have no doubt now, that Jóhann Eyfells is as nimble, precise and swift with his understanding of the cosmos and the physical world we live in, as he was in the ring as a boxing champion in Iceland. It is with this almost ‘supernatural’ agility that he is able to conceptualize and execute all of his projects, whether it is his collapsions, in which ‘time’ as an abstract concept is visually revealed, his cairns, his rocks or his multiple installations of ‘industrial made’ found objects of massive proportions, sometime weighing up to 14 tons.

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And let me tell you, when I stop to think how a 92 year old, whose body is as fragile as porcelain, can manage to lift and precisely position these huge rusted steel remnants of an industrial age past to satisfy his aesthetic compulsion as an artist, I am often left speechless and astonished.

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Yes, indeed, he often sees the inherent beauty of something that would otherwise seem obsolete and discarded to most of us seemingly ‘forward thinking’ humans, and that is precisely what these objects have become to him, beautiful expressions of human engineering and brilliance. Recently, they have become necessary and critical components to articulating to the world our often unsettled and sometimes fearful relationship with the unknown and irrational. It does seem ironic that he uses the very elements that not only embody the rational and physical world, manufactured tools and elements of the industrial age, like giant turbine propellers, to open our minds to the unfamiliar seemingly insane world of Eyfells.

As a true artist, he tirelessly challenges our tendency towards complacency, brought on by the comforts and conveniences of the industrial, electronic and now, digital age. I see him as the Don Quixote of the 21st century, tirelessly and against all odds, confronting the rational world, except this time he does not represent a tragic character that ultimately gives in to ‘convention’ and renounces his ‘insanity’ to become a mere shepherd. No, instead, he selflessly provides us with the opportunity to see for ourselves how collectively we can easily be allured by the deceptiveness of rational thought, that it is ok to embrace the irrational, the unknown. He is our new hero, without a doubt, and it will take us a little while to realize this. Its highly probable that he will not see this revolution of thought take hold before he passes on, but I would hope that he will bare witness to a larger audience and more global appreciation of his accomplishments.

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If WE are willing and courageous enough to allow ourselves to be immersed into the unknown and uncharted aspects of our intellect and psyche, I promise, like I have, YOU will in fact see the light and wisdom of Jóhann’s aesthetic expression and art, and as a result, be forever transformed.

Today, thanks to the insight I’ve gained through Johann’s work and vision, I feel I am at a better place in my life, simply because I am not defeated by the fear of the unknown. In fact, it is that fear that signals that part of me to move forward instead of backward, to take risks and ‘leaps of faith’. It is also through those ‘leaps of faith’ that I discover new understanding, not only of myself, but of the cosmos around me. I will certainly miss Jóhann when he is no longer with us, but his insight and joy of life will eternally course through my veins.        Written by Hayden de M. Yates

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Photos by Hayden de M. Yates and Ian Candler

To see the trailer of the new documentary film, A Force in Nature, go to the following link:  https://vimeo.com/135532487

Iceland is recognizing one of their own

Johann’s sculpture has recently made headlines on the most important Icelandic publication, FRETTABLADID. See it below:

JohannNewspaper copyBe sure to also see the trailer for A Force in Nature here: https://vimeo.com/135532487

A Force in Nature – Official Trailer

PosterSee the new trailer for our upcoming film. Click on the following link:

https://vimeo.com/113375452

To make a donation toward the film, click the link below:

https://www.paypal.me/VitruviusCreations

Once Upon a Time in a remote little farm in Iceland

Ingólfur Eyfells, son of the artist Jóhann Eyfells, takes us on an in depth tour of the old Icelandic farm of his childhood, recollecting an event in which a horse saved his life. This is one of the stories that brings life and texture to A Force in Nature, a biopic of Jóhann Eyfells, an Icelandic sculptor working in the remote Hill Country of Texas.

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Ingólfur Eyfells and Hayden de M. Yates filming in Kalmanstunga, Iceland

https://vimeo.com/135532487

The Opposite of Murphy’s Law

The life and work of Jóhann Eyfells is a constant reminder that “if something can go right, it will go right.” Since the first day I met with my friend Jóhann, almost nine years ago, my life has taken a whole new meaning, and for the better, without a doubt.

JEyfells2See this teaser, A Force in Nature (password: spirals), a feature length documentary film looking at the life and work of Jóhann Eyfells.