Something ‘Strange’

As I begin writing this, I wonder what words will be immortalized on this page. I have an idea, a concept, a direction, a feeling of what I might want to express, however, I am at a loss of how it’s all going to turn out, and what the ramifications are from writing it. That is the mystery of it, which is what inspires me to continue. In fact, I am driven to writing this both by the sheer wonder and fear of it all.

SculptureReykjavikJóhann Eyfells, is an artist, now in his mid nineties (94), whose life has been absolutely devoted in providing a window through which we can peek at the unknowable aspects of our existence, the mysteries of our universe, of GOD, even of our own complex human nature. It is through that window we might be able to glimpse at all of the possibilities that the “unknowing” can afford us. Jóhann’s Cairn, prominently displayed overlooking Faxa bay in Reykjavik, is exactly that to me personally. It is by peering through the center of it, that we will finally accept this constant we call the ‘unknowable’.  It is this opening or awakening to the mystery itself that life is best served and lived, and Jóhann is providing us with this rare opportunity. This window can become a door once we realize that we are a part of, not apart from, this grand mystery, and that we make a decision to step through it’s threshold.


“ART is very perplexing, unknowable, mysterious, yet it is something that cannot be denied” as Jóhann puts it. The astronomer and author, Carl Sagan was once quoted as saying “I don’t want to believe, I want to know”, implying that knowledge is above all, even GOD, and paramount in our understanding of the universe and ourselves. However, Sagan was also quoted in his writings that “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” implying that even the unknowable cannot be ignored.

I would go as far as to say that knowledge or ‘knowing’ kills the mystery, and once mystery is dead, life is dead for all of humanity. In the ‘information age’ we are currently experiencing, we are living in a time when the need of predicting unpredictable outcomes, solving mysteries, explaining the unexplainable, simplifying complexities, defining the undefined has become an absolute obsession. The frenzied fear of ‘not knowing’ is at an all time high for many of US, and our economies, politics, medecines, foods and infrastructures are built on that very notion that fear itself must be avoided at all cost. We are fearful of fear itself, which subsequently breeds more fear.

Genuine art is fearless and must, at all cost, remain so. Jóhann Eyfells is truly fearless as an artist, in that fear itself is never a hindrance to him, but rather becomes a trampoline from which he hurdles himself into the unknowing. To be an honest artist you must have the courage to take on that fear and find inspiration in it. Fear becomes nothing more than the artist’s tool to reveal the strange truth.


As Jóhann puts it so eloquently,

“The moment you stumble onto something simple with ‘dumb luck’, it becomes something ‘strange’. That is God’s gift to US.”

I look forward to the moment which we find excitement of the ‘strange’ and unknowable in our everyday existence so that we can all bathe in it with absolute joy!





Our award winning feature film, A FORCE IN NATURE: Jóhann Eyfells will be released in early Summer of this year, 2018. Book a screening in your city, town, museum, university or house. See trailer here:


Click on picture to view trailer

Contact us for booking information at (512) 966-9299 or







2017 Orlando Film Festival

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 8.28.09 PM

At the wake of three devastating hurricanes, Harvey, Irma and Maria, on October 25th, A Force in Nature was screened at Orlando’s Cobb Plaza Cinema. We were fortunate and proud that the film was nominated for the Focus on Art category of the competition. We were more overjoyed that our Eyfells’ community was able to make it to the screening.


Steve Lotz, a long time friend and colleague of Jóhann Eyfells’ from the University of Central Florida (formely Florida Technological University) wrote this after seeing the film.

“What an unforgettably wonderful film you two have created. Its filming, editing, and concept are all outstanding. And most important (to me) is what I consider to be is its primary intent … to allow viewers to understand the life, goals, and uniqueness of Jóhann, is beautifully accomplished. It might and hopefully will give Jóhann the wide attention that he deserves and I know he has wanted.

There were many times at the screening during which I felt close to tears. . . . seeing images and relationships of Joie’s (Jóhann’s nickname) background that, during the many decades of our close friendship, I had never seen or knew about. Our only visit to Iceland was in 1965, a few months before our son (now 51 year old) was born in Vienna. We met Joie’s parents and a few of his friends, and saw some of the non-urban parts of Iceland. But not the beautiful stone and water locations you filmed. . . . all of which must help viewers to better understand the nature sources of Johann’s sculpture.

Seeing the size and dominance of his talking head on the huge theater screen. . . his constant smiles as he talks, and the likeness of his elderly skin with the geologic surfaces of the country. You have described the cosmic connections between his art, his body and psyche, and the nature of Iceland by magnificent concept, filming and editing!!!

After seeing the film I had a phone chat with him that was longer than usual. Since we are both almost deaf I’m not sure that we were always understanding what the other was saying. . . but I got these impressions: I was telling him that after your and my meeting and talking to you about the film and the relationship between you two and the contents of the things you have written about him I strongly feel that his debt to you for what you have created is enormous.

Seeing Ingólfur’s (Jóhann’s son) face after all these years, his strong visual presence (that is so much now like Johann’s was when I first met him), his strong social presence, and his appreciation of his father’s accomplishments. . . it all really moved me. And the conversation with “Little Kristin” (Leyla’s niece) who we haven’t seen since she was an undergraduate student at FTU in the 70s-early 80s.

The only part of the viewing that saddened me was that it is the only time it was shown and that was in a Wednesday afternoon when so few people could fit it into busy work schedules. But the attendance wasn’t bad and included many of Joie’s former students and people from the local art community. . . those who I could talk to, loved it.

I feel honored to be a small part of such a magnificent work of art. Thanks.”

Steve Lotz – October 30, 2017

A couple FTU Alumni from Jóhann’s classes watched the film and said this about it.

“He was also one of my teachers at UCF. I brought two friends, one who was also his student and one not. All three of us were greatly affected by his tenacity and view of the world. I was so moved and realized how much I miss his words of wisdom.

I continue to appreciate his observation of the new crack in the rock and his wonder at it. This is the kind of thing he tried to explain the relevancy of when I was a 19 year old sponge of a student. At 51, I understand more about this. The biggest lesson he taught me in life was not to be afraid of criticism and that the success is in the creating and not the sale. When I met him we had class in the Dome just before moving into the new building where he had a nice big area to work his magic. Maybe he’ll remember that. I instantly had the biggest crush on him in my first of three classes. There were so many things in the movie that I never knew about him. He certainly owns his struggle. Through many roadblocks he persevered to his artist destiny.

Bravo to the movie as a whole filming, direction, editing and bringing the pure artist out in him for the audience. I was inspired and melancholy when it ended. I miss those college days of constant learning with out too many of life distractions. Somehow he has maintained this! Thank you for making a fantastic film. Thank you to Johann for his voice in my ear and strength of confidence in my mind. I must get the DVD, when it comes out, and share it with friends. Thank you so much.”

Bethany Taylor Myers – November 2017


“Whenever I view a film I expect to learn something new and Hayden Yates’ film did not disappoint me. A Force in Nature is a study in perseverance, both for the filmmaker and his subject, the 94 year old visionary Icelandic sculptor Jóhann Eyfells. Tracing the life and influences of an artist is a difficult and complex enterprise and it has been undertaken over many years of collaboration conducted with great care and consideration. The sculptor Jóhann Eyfells ceaseless dedication to his creative work and his positive and dynamic personality are the true stars of the film. Jóhann shares some glimpses of his philosophy and a small sampling of seven decades of his incredibly dynamic and diverse artistic output. The film is a thoughtful and sensitive introduction to the artist and leaves the viewer eager to learn more about his art and irrepressible personality. It is very much a beginning into the greater investigation of human creativity, which is itself a Force in Nature.”

Mark Alexander – June 21, 2017


…and recently, from an author, poet and college professor at California State University Long Beach.

“I did get to enjoy your film and I absolutely loved it! You have a gifted eye for the extraordinary in the visual and the spiritual. The photography is luminous. The toggle back and forth between Iceland and Texas is beautifully negotiated. Eyfells is an amazing subject. The end scene with his hand gestures against the sunset is YOUR sculpture: fluid and very lovely. I was also interested in the idea of Receptual Art.”

Patricia Cherin – Poet & Author – Jan. 4, 2018


These sorts of testaments are so paramount to us as filmmakers, since they reflect how we succeeded in maintaining the integrity of Johann’s story as a man and his vision as an artist.



Filmmaker BLOG:

Our award winning feature film, A FORCE IN NATURE: Jóhann Eyfells will be released in early Summer of 2018. Book a screening in your city, town, museum and university. See trailer here:

Contact us for booking information at (512) 966-9299 or



How important is Jóhann Eyfells art to the 21st Century? (part two)

I thought I would continue a discussion on the merits of art, but this time from the point of view of an art historian, critic and curator. Here is what Joseph Bravo wrote about an important art installation in the city of Reykjavik, Iceland, the Icelandic Cairn created by Jóhann Eyfells.

The Icelandic Cairn


“During my recent trip to Iceland, I was glad to discover that the significance of Johann’s artistic achievements was appreciated by art historians and museum administrators in his homeland. While Johann may have spent a large portion of his creative life in the U.S., he has been and always will be an Icelandic artist. My recent trip to your beautiful country only further convinced me of the inextricable link between Iceland and the aesthetic optic of this extraordinary artist. 

The Icelandic landscape, the national character and the cultural context of Eyfell’s artistic practice are all clearly evident in his body of work. While his ideas and aesthetics have been in dialogue with the wider international art canon, the orientation of Johann’s inquiry is fundamentally connected to Icelandic indigenous perspectives and the instincts he derives from the landscape. Hayden de M. Yates’ cinematic biopic, “A Force In Nature: Johann Eyfells“, that premiered last week at RIFF, is aptly titled because the artist’s practice has been conceived from its inception to function as a force indistinguishable from nature. For Johann, both his existence and artwork are themselves the result of natural phenomena. 

Eyfell’s “Icelandic Cairn” sculpture currently on display in Reykjavik is of particular significance because it represents one of the most ambitious achievements in his bronze “Cairn” series. This series, perhaps as much if not more than any other in his deep oeuvre, bears the most literal testimony to the relationship between the artist’s aesthetic and the history of covalence between Icelanders and their physical environment. Johann Eyfell’s work has functioned on so many levels and touched on so many issues of art theory as to represent a heroic intellectual achievement spanning the scope of 20th century aesthetic priorities. In this important piece, he addresses conceptual issues of physics and metaphysics. The artist investigates organic form and environmentalism, chaos and hyper-complexity, superfluidity and spontaneity, the distinction between instinct and intuition, truth to materials and their iconographic implications, abstract expressionism vs. simulacrum as well as cosmopolitanism and indigenous cultural context. The artist’s expansive curiosity has allowed him to use his artistic practice as a mechanism of cosmological intellectual inquiry touching on an infinite number of theoretical facets. In “Icelandic Cairn”, he has achieved a masterwork of intellectual and aesthetic speculation. Eyfells has accomplished this without being derivative and while creating some of the most ground breaking sculptures in the history of Icelandic art in particular. His artwork is technically and conceptually innovative by any standard hence his intellectual contributions are of international significance to the wider global art canon. 


The current site of the “Icelandic Cairn” sculpture is in many ways ideal as it faces out over the Faxafói Bay and symbolically connects Reykjavik with Mt. Esja. The aperture at the sculpture’s center ensures that the vista of Esja is never obscured and makes for a respectful compliment to the awe inspiring landscape. Its position along both pedestrian and automotive thoroughfares as well as its visibility from the sea affords optimum appreciation of the sculpture by local residents and visitors alike. Its proximity to other important sculptures allows it to convey gravity in keeping with the curatorial context of public artworks in the vicinity and is essential in the creation of a consistent and poetic narrative along the shoreline. Even its placement on the rubble stone base lends elegance to its appropriate presentation. Those responsible for its original installation are to be commended on their foresight and good judgment in how this was technically managed. 


It is my sincerest hope that the “Icelandic Cairn” sculpture by Johann Eyfells becomes a permanent fixture in the civic landscape of Reykjavik. The citizens of the city and the nation of Iceland are indeed fortunate to have such an important artwork. It stands as yet another reason for well-deserved Icelandic cultural pride. Johann Eyfells is an Icelandic national treasure and one for which the rest of the world owes a debt of gratitude to Iceland for spawning and inspiring him to create such edifying artistic achievements.”   Joseph Bravo

Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF 2017) and Werner Herzog.

Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 1.11.20 PM

On October 1, 2017, our film was screened for the very first time in Europe at RIFF 2017 (Reykjavik International Film Festival) at the Háskólabió in the city of Reykjavik, Iceland.(


I was wonderful how well we were received by the family and friends who are connected with Jóhann Eyfells’ life and work. The film’s screening was a huge success!


It all began 2 days before, when I arrived into the city from the airport, immediately conducting an interview with RÚV, the Icelandic TV Network interviewing me and my friend Joe Bravo about our film. ( It was a follow up interview prior to the screening, and after a preliminary story that came out earlier this year (

Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 12.28.35 PM

Then it was followed by an exclusive invitation by the German Consulate to an evening reception dedicated to Werner Herzog, which I attended with reserved delight.


My friend Joe Bravo, art critic and curator, and I met the man himself in the flesh and beating heart as well as his lovely wife and accomplished photographer, Lena Herzog ( It turned out to be an amazing and delightful evening sharing insights.

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 12.20.33 AM

The following day we were also invited to a special luncheon organized by RIFF to celebrate Werner and his incredible work and 60+ films. It so happens that both Werner and Lena sat with us at a small table, and we were able to connect more deeply over fish and chips and local beer.

Afterwards Werner conducted a Master Class at the University showing clips from one of his numerous films, Into the Abyss (, which was shortly followed by a full screening of his widely acclaimed film Grizzly Man (

That same evening I attended a formal goodbye dinner for Werner and Lena because they had to leave the following day, and once again I was at their table sitting with some of the most talented directors from the festival from around the globe, including Iran, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark, all the while thinking to myself that I have gone to “Film Heaven”. WOW! What a way to start a festival.

More to come…


See our Facebook Page for more details on future screenings:

Here is an article in Icelandic that came out during the festival:

Here is a review about our film, our first formal one:

From York Underwood – Niceland – Oct. 1, 2017

Jóhann Eyfells is a sculptor born in Reykjavík, but has spent most of his working life in the United States. He works with huge, heavy pieces of stone, steel and wood. His theory of art is called receptualism and Johann is mostly concerned with the interaction of gravity, time and space. He has worked consistently and steadily for over six decades. His inspiration comes from his wife Kristrín Halldórsdóttir, a former model and dress designer at the time of their marriage, who was also a popular and respected sculptor and painter. She died in 2002.

A Force In Nature: Jóhann Eyfells is the first time I’ve seen a documentary attempt so many discussions, touch on several ideas, only to reveal what it had already shown in the first few minutes. One man, waking up every day, and moving rocks–and steel and wood and any other material he decided to use. Jóhann questions his own identity, laments the loss of his wife, reveals his hopes to contribute to the world and worries about his legacy. The effect is misdirection. We hope, worry, question and lament, as an audience, right alongside the subject of the film, but the real hero of the film is Jóhann’s hands.

You watch a ninety-year-old man move, chain, bolt and hoist huge pieces of concrete and rusty steel. Even with his slight frame, and obvious age, you see strength and courage in his actions, but more acutely, in his hands, the instruments of his trade. His life is filled with the stories we all share. The difference between you and him–in most of us–is purpose. He finds meaning and purpose in the work and process of his art–even if his art requires him to wake up every morning and move a big fucking rock.

The Myth Of Sisyphus has been adapted before. We’ve seen Bill Murray live the lesson of sisyphus in Groundhog Dayliving the same day over and over again–discovering what makes life worth living. We’ve also seen it literally in The Simpsons, a chained Homer dragging a rock up a hill (Remove the Stone Of Shame! Attach the Stone Of Triumph!). In our culture, the myth of sisyphus has been boiled down to parable, to reference, and distilled further to the triteness of a bumper sticker: It’s the journey, not the destination, that matters…dude. It’s only when you watch this film that you see a life that mimics art, where myth becomes lived reality.

I don’t know if the film will launch Jóhann into the international fame and recognition his friends, family and, well, himself, thinks he deserves. You will, however, leave the film…moved. It’s a portrait of a man with purpose and it challenges you to hold yourself up to a similar standard. It’s hard to bury your head in your hands when you imagine the daily beaten his 94-year-old hands take everyday.

My guess is the film will inspire you to do one of two things:

1. You’ll want to know more about and see more of Jóhann’s Art.

2. You’ll want to do your work more seriously and passionately.

With any luck, it’ll be both.

“I can’t imagine a more successful combination of two unlikely existences.”–Jóhann Eyfells

By York Underwood – Niceland – October 1, 2017



Some of the Icelandic views during our filming of A Force in Nature.

We did it! “Best Documentary Film”


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.

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 10.49.07 AM.png

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

An insight from Jóhann – Light, Sound and Movement

I recently spoke to the artist, and as usual, I come away inspired. He called to say that he had some hopeful news coming from Iceland that some individuals are taking a keen interest in his work. He seemed optimistic that more and more people are beginning to understand his vision, “almost to a tee.” Personally speaking, in the 8+ years I’ve known Jóhann, I’ve seldom thought of him as being anything other than optimistic.

As always, he asked how I was faring, and how both my children were. He was especially interested in knowing how my own pursuit of a Master’s degree in Motion Picture & Television Directing was getting on. I told him I was inundated with the richness of academia. With regards to A Force in Nature, I told him we were in full post-production and we expect to be close to finishing.

He paused for a moment and then said the following: “Directing is understanding darkness, silence, and stillness.”  At first, I did not get it, but he proceeded to elaborate and said that “light is a consequence of darkness, sound a consequence of silence, and movement a consequence of stillness.” Because light, sound and movement are so fundamental to the making of any movie, I was now re-engaged, thanks to Jóhann, as I reflect on the role I am playing as a director of our film, A Force in Nature. In short, I was re-ignited by a man almost twice my age as I step away from my own effortless tendency towards complacency.

password: “spirals”


Chapter 1 – Ingólfur and the Ghost Crevasse – Filming A Force in Nature in Iceland

Since Monday, we have been traveling through some of the most remote and breath taking areas of Iceland, and here are some photos of the actual shoot to prove it. Anderson Seal, from Newport Beach, California, is our camera assistant extraordinaire and friend, and we are so lucky to have him with us. Ingólfur Eyfells,  Jóhann Eyfells’ son, has been our amazing guide, cultural attaché and location coordinator, and the rest of his family have been so gracious and kind to accommodate us these last 2 days and throughout the three weeks we will be in Iceland.

Don’t forget to check out our teaser trailer for the film on Vimeo:

The first part of our journey, Chapter 1, was meticulously organized and guided by Jóhann Eyfells’ son, Ingólfur Eyfells. Being a project manager of a company that is solely in charge of operating Iceland’s electricity transmission grid, and also an avid hiker and adventurer,  Ingólfur’s knowledge of the interior country and its people was critical in our search for images that captured the very essence of this incredibly beautiful country. His own experiences growing up as a child also led us to places where we gained valuable insight into the lore, history and culture of the Icelandic people.

The Ghost Crevasse was one such place, where it is said that spirits that were lurking and bothering the local farmers below were relocated to this large crevasse in the hills so that they could move on to the afterlife. When we did hike through and into the crevice and reached its very depths, it occurred to us that there was not a single sound that could be heard, except that which came from our own breaths and footsteps. Once inside this tall, naturally shaped, spiraling cathedral, we completely felt alone in another world along with the absolute stillness that seem to echo the mysteries of the world unknown. This experience alone has without a doubt made a deep impression in my own psyche. Simon and Garfunkel’s  Sound of Silence has taken on a whole new meaning for me.

With Ingólfur, we must have traveled hundreds of miles of dirt roads to see and experience some of the most breathtaking landscapes the world has ever created. Iceland is an island that continues to be formed and changed by its volcanic nature and temperament, so the landscapes are ever changing and diverse.

Jóhann Eyfells Sculpture Ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas.