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.

 

 

 

 

I am a Thief

“I am a thief. I steal someone’s creation. I take someone else’s ‘success and make it my own.” Jóhann Eyfells

There is an inert and outward beauty in these so called found objects that Eyfells selects as his own. How is he able to recognize the inherent genius that created each of these objects? Is it God or is it Man? When each of these forms were initially created, they were designed and manufactured for a single function use to serve mankind. Jóhann Eyfells recognizes, not only the brilliant unambiguous engineering in each of these object, but also the inherent beauty of obsolescence. Most of these pieces share a common fate. They experienced a similar array of forces that it took to create, utilize and destroy them. Eyfells is merely there to bring these forces to light by displaying these objects in their various stages of disintegration and dissolution. He will also go as far as to give them new life and re-purpose them into functioning pieces of art. Thanks to Jóhann they begin a new life of artistic expression.

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(photo courtesy of Hayden de M. Yates)

Should you wish to participate towards the making of our feature film documentary, A Force in Nature, you can do so right here:

https://paypal.me/VitruviusCreations

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.

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.

http://vimeo.com/52449621

password: “spirals”

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Sigurður Pálsson – “To be alive is to Become…”

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“We were not intended to Be, but to Become”

We would like to thank Sigurður Pálsson for his beautiful contribution to A Force in Nature.

Born 30. 7. 1948 at Skinnastadur, Iceland, Sigurður Pálsson studied French in Toulouse and Paris 1967-1968, drama and literature at the Institute d’Etudes Théâtrales, Sorbonne, Paris 1968-1973 and again from 1978-1982, obtaining maîtrise and D.E.A. degrees. He also studied at the Conservatoire Libre du Cinéma Français, obtaining a cinema direction diploma. He was professor at the University of Reykjavik and the National Academy of Dramatic Art. Sigurdur Pálsson has also published thirteen books of poetry from 1975 to 2006.  Some of his poems have been translated  into French, Swedish, English, Danish, German, Bulgarian, Chinese, Estonian, Italian, Spanish. He is also a cinema producer.

He was nominated for the Nordic Council Prize for Literature in 1993, and for the Icelandic Literary Prize in 1995 and 2001 and finally in 2007 for Minnisbók (Notebook from Memory) for which he received the Prize. Minnisbók is a memoir of his stay in France during 1967-1982, a playful, bittersweet, funny and charming description of an époque. He was awarded the annual Literary Prize of the Icelandic Radio 1999 and the Booksellers’ Prize for Poetry, 2001. Selected poems were published in French in 1993 in a bilingual edition (Poèmes des hommes et du sel) by Editions de  la  Différence. A selection of Pálsson’s poems was published in Bulgarian in 2005 and in Italien (with texts by two other Icelandic poets) in 2006. A selection in Spanish, Vientos y Nubes, was published in 2008. Pálsson has written eleven theatre plays that have been staged from 1975  to 2008, many of them by the Reykjavik City Theatre while the two most recent ones, a much acclaimed play on the life of Edith Piaf, and the last one, Utan gátta, were put on by the Icelandic National Theatre. One libretto: The Moonlight Island, world premiere in 1997 in Beijing. Music by Nordic Council Prize Winner, Atli Heimir Sveinsson. Three novels: Parísarhjól (The Big Wheel of Paris) published in 1998, Blár þríhyrningur (Blue Triangle) in 2000 and Næturstaður (Night Lodging) 2002.

Pálsson has also produced two full-length features (in 1983 and 1992) by Kristín Jóhannesdóttir.  As in Heaven was selected in the Official Selection (Out of competition) in the Cannes Film Festival in 1992  and has won about twelve prizes in international film festivals. He has directed three TV films and several theatre plays.

Pálsson has translated over twenty titles from French into Icelandic, works by Camus, Genet, Adamov, Arrabal, Ghelderode, Feydeau, Bailly, Queffélec, Prévert, Éluard, Carrère, Augé, Deforges, Cordelier, Châtelet, Vinaver, Anne, Kvaran and Schmitt and also two plays by Arthur Miller. Sigurdur Pálsson was President of the Alliance Française of Iceland from 1976 to 1977. Chairman of the Writers’ Union of Iceland from 1984 to 1988.  He was awarded the three  years Honorary Stipend of the City of Reykjavik in 1987 and has several times been granted a Writer’s Stipend from the State of Iceland. He was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1990 by the French Minister of Culture and Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite in 2007 by the President of France.

http://vimeo.com/52449621  password: “spirals”

You Asked Me to Explain Jóhann Eyfells: In the spirit of “Receptualism” or “Uncreationism”

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Our Problem:  The Unconscious versus the Conscious. All great activities escape consciousness.

I assume it is a fundamental trait of human nature to desire an explanation when faced with something unknowable, or in other words to be comforted by something that can “only” be sensed. As an abstract artist in the modernist tradition, I generally shy away from trying to explain the “unknowable” that belongs to the eternal nature of all things. On the other hand, I am always more willing to make an attempt at unraveling the categories of an infinitely active beginning-less and ending-less continuum, which is always implicitly present in all creative manifestations. Additionally, and perhaps more fundamentally, I would also be more than willing to attempt to unravel and elucidate the infinite ability of “our” creative unconsciousness to reach beyond anthropomorphic concepts of symptoms and symbols, and thus try to penetrate into the obscure conceptual categories of the unconsciousness itself.

CHANCE

The driving force and the only unifying factor behind all of the investigative endeavors as articulated above can be made more specific by the employment of the all-inclusive, yet radically dualistic and ambivalent term: “operational necessity.”

The reader will most likely recognize the term from the vernacular of industrial or military strategies, yet this expression has a much more immediate and radically different dynamic application in the domains of philosophy and art, the two domains where our use of the phrase, “operational necessity” exemplifies a momentary rejection of all established values. If we imagine two unequal and irreducible forces, one dominant and the other dominated in close proximity to one another, then what we witness at the very moment when they enter into a relationship is a necessary formation of a whole or an absolute birth of an “event” which cannot be scientifically verified. It is only to be observed and perhaps described. Thus our “operational necessity” serves no established patterns and is of the kind that contains no known causes (no know “WHYs”). This enigmatic, yet super-positive version of our quarry contains, however, a totally fresh “uncreated” and an almost esoteric essence or a will, which appears or turns out to be necessarily constituted by two irreducible halves, Chaos and Circular Motion, where oppositions do not exist. Thus our quarry becomes the “embodiment” of the impossibility of the existence of “absolute” wholes, but exemplifies instead, the ceaseless and absolute genesis of something. Again our “operational necessity” must thus be recognized as the thought of pure becoming a momentary creation and a chance occurrence. A specific yet unbiased “example” would be “THE THROW OF THE DICE.”

Furthermore, and concretely, the double meaning of “operational necessity” depends on whether we affirm our own difference (positively) or deny that which differs (negatively). Finally and most deeply, “operational necessity” is defined negatively as the ”affirmation” of established values and positively defined as the transmutation of all known values.

Similarly, the multiple phenomenon which I call “Singularicity” exists as a unique whole or being of sensation that cannot be measured or compared. It can only be sensed. It is the kind of complex unity that ideally would exemplify the union of life and thought, sometimes referred to as a “pre-Socratic unity.”

 THE ART

This is the essence of art. It can only be affirmed as a necessity of chance (i.e. as a creative thought). What occurs in the innermost nature of my mind as I imagine eternity or infinity is the concept of the (new) positive version of “operational necessity”, i.e. only the affirmative and positive kind as articulated above. I have no choice but to act in light of this joyful and profound event. Thus, I am attempting to express through my work infinity joyously announcing itself. Poets and great composers of music are pioneers in similar pursuits, and I would go as far as to say that this mode of being could become a universal human quest, entirely momentary and positive.

In reference to my work, the reader inevitably will be aware of a physical rupture of a continuum as is clearly evidenced by my spirals and even more so in my dissected cubes and rocks. And it is surely the space in-between that becomes a domain of revelations and that will elevate our perceptions. I strive to evoke a sense of an eternity of aesthetic invisibility into my pieces. It is my hope that this infinitely repeated aesthetic “something” is there as surely as are the support structures and the pedestals that I build to support each piece.

All authentic aesthetic feelings that are affected by a work of art must, ideally gain their tone meaning as the magnificent gifts from outside that I strive to portray. Much rewardingly, I have had people look at my work and tell me positive things I could never have anticipated. Occasionally, I have been elated beyond measure by some viewers’ reactions to an art piece I created, and of course, I have been moved in similar ways by the work of my fellow artists on numerous occasions.

 THE MOVIE

Does “exterior reality” sometimes feel like we are in somebody’s movie? Do you “almost” hear and see the unknowable script echoing in and passing through your head as you keep wondering what existence might conceivably be about? Does the unknowable leave you unsettled, feeling incomplete and skeptical? Don’t despair…confronting the unknowable is the concrete form of the human condition, and we must have total faith in and embrace this feeling of radical ambivalence, because it initiates the necessity of our faith in the world and that which becomes the fundamental source and cause of everything, a sort of a “womb” of absolute genesis or that which I call “only a birth”. It exists as the entirely momentary fact of living or the glittering “Being” of the flash of eternity. It is the inside of the inside, a version of infinity that wants to show itself. That is the “durational” movie you and I are in; a movie that is the highest functionary of what IS – a power that has the ability to instill in us as deviations/spirals, again, or eternally “once more”, faith in the world, and only new faith in living can re-join us to the movies’ script: “our” seeing, “our” hearing, “our” feeling, “our” loving, “our” creating, etc, etc. Embrace it! We (as dispersed absences of the origin) call it “Receptualism”. Welcome it!

I = M∞2

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Redefining Art in the 21st Century.

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Jóhann Eyfells, a defyingly driven 89 year old Icelandic sculptor living in Texas, redefines the meaning and purpose of art for the 21st century. Art is no longer a commodity or something that is there merely as a status symbol or to satisfy a superficial aesthetic need. It has a higher more profound purpose, to reformulate human consciousness. It is there to remind humanity of its own eternal infinite nature that goes beyond time and space. As a young man in Iceland, he was considered to be an exceptional boxer who had never experienced defeat. He would win over his opponent not because he was stronger, but because he would be faster, infinitely so. Boxing provided him with a glimpse of a boundless universe in which everything traveled at infinite speed.

Through Jóhann’s penetrating insight and body of work, we can begin to catch a glimpse at an infinite and ‘unknowable’ universe that resides around us…in spite of our precarious fondness of the visible and physical world.

“Complacency is the unwillingness to explore the chaotic unknown and the undefinable, and resigning ourselves to the coziness of the knowable.” Hayden de M. Yates

Jóhann’s fiery loyalty and commitment had not always been limited just to art. At 23, he left his home in Iceland, land of fire and ice, to forge a new life in America, where he would eventually meet the love of his life, Kristin, also an Icelandic sculptor/painter, with whom he would spend the next 54 years.

Jóhann and Kristin, in their undiluted love for one another would both become consummate and masterly artists, each pushed by the other’s genuine passion and tenacious commitment to their craft, as an expression of humanity and beyond.

And here is some info about A Force in Nature, a feature documentary film due out in Spring or summer of 2013. The password is “spirals”.

You can join us on Facebook at Friends of Jóhann Eyfells
Twitter: @haydenyates

Take a look at a few scenes from our film below. Don’t forget the password:
http://vimeo.com/135532487

Power of Passage – Reykjavik Museum of Art – Jóhann Eyfells

A major exhibit of Jóhann Eyfells’ collaption along with a video installation by filmmaker, Þór Elís Pálsson at Iceland’s Reykjavik Museum of Art.

As the title suggests, Power of Passage explores the passing moment and its image. The focal point of the exhibition is the large scale Cloth Collapsion by Jóhann Eyfells (b. 1923) which is shown alongside a three-channel video installation created by video artist Þór Elís Pálsson, using his own interviews with Eyfells about his philosophy of art and life.

The exhibit is from September 12 to January 6, 2013

See the trailer for A Force in Nature, a full length documentary film about the artist.

http://vimeo.com/50200612

Rediscovering Kristin Halldorsdottir Eyfells

Kristin Halldorsdottir Eyfells

In Iceland, the day that you are born, you are somebody, whether girl or boy. Your family name is your father’s, however, Icelanders take it one step further and tack on your gender. For example, when the artist Kristin Halldorsdottir was born in a small village inland from Reykjavik, she was given the name Kristin by her parents, but her surname was “the daughter of Halldors.” Had she been a boy, she would have been named “the son of Halldors.” This clears up any confusion in communications as to the gender of the newborn child, a matter of extreme importance in Iceland. In the Icelandic language, there are different greetings for  males and females, nouns have gender as in German, and opportunities for girls, until recent times, have been limited.

Kristin Eyfells, the eldest of six children, grew up admiring her father, a rural doctor serving Icelandic families. He recognized her keen intellect early on and took her with him on his visits to his patients living on isolated farms throughout the territory. Very early in her life she developed an unquenchable ambition to make large contributions. Her interests were many. She loved clothing and design, psychology, music, photography and especially visual arts. By the time she met Jóhann Eyfells in Berkeley, California in 1948, she was already a very independent dress designer and businesswoman. She owned a dress shop in Reykjavik, while attending design school in Berkeley.

By the 1950’s, she was married to Jóhann and embarking on a new career as a painter and sculptor. Kristin would leave a lucrative career as a clothing industry entrepreneur to become a visual artists. Jóhann, would also eventually distance himself away from working as a licensed architect and ambitiously devote his life as a fine artist. With a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of Florida, she continued her studies in fine art, applying all of her experiences and education toward her goal of producing formidable art.

Jóhann & Kristin

What is great art? Simply put, it is art that has the power to change your thinking in a “truthful” way. It does not shock or offend, rather it brings you to new insights and heightens your esthetic appreciation of the world. This is what Kristin Eyfells attempted to do when she began painting people. Her most ambitious and recognized body of work is entitled “Famous Faces“, in which all of her subjects are people of notoriety. Not all of her subjects were famous though. She did a body of work entitled “Anonymous Faces” that reveal her subjects’ deepest feelings and strengths. In this series she wanted to focus on women whose surface beauty is defined by a mask of make up, yet still exposing underneath another more subtle mask of defensiveness, which suggests that Kristin, in spite of this double mask (mask within a mask) carried by her subjects, had the uncanny ability to reveal the inner beauty and vulnerability of the person through the layers of paint and color.

After 32 years of producing “great art”, Kristin Eyfells died in Orlando, Florida from complications brought on by a stroke. She was 85 years old. In 2003, Jóhann Eyfells moved to Fredericksburg, Texas from Orlando, and brought with him both his large body of work as well as Kristin’s. It was a monumental undertaking, but it presented him with a new challenge of being and creating without his life partner. He continues to work to this day on new bodies of work, and his major goal for the remaining years of his life is to see Kristin Eyfells, the artist, move to the forefront of American art. Presently, her “Famous Faces” series is being exhibited at the International Museum of Art and Science (IMAS) in McAllen, Texas.

Self Portrait by the artist

We, here in the Hill Country, are lucky to have Kristin Halldorsdottir Eyfells’ large body of work housed at the Eyfells & Eyfells Sculpture & Art Ranch, just 5 miles west of Fredericksburg, Texas. Jóhann, her husband of 52 years, is also exhibiting her “Anonymous Faces” series in the Sunken Gallery. Outdoor visitors are welcome to come and visit anytime and see this exceptional collection.

Written by Sherryl Brown