Wishing, Playing, and Marking Time with Stone: Ojars Feldbergs

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The Franconia team had the pleasure of welcoming our first Open Studio Fellows of 2017, Latvian artists Ojars Feldbergs and Laura Feldberga (father and daughter), who worked from mid-March to mid-April on individual installations.

In 1992, Ojars founded the Pedvale Open Air Museum which holds a permanent collection of more than 150 outdoor sculptures by an international group of artists. Ojars works primarily with large stones and completed the new work “69+1=70.”

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How did you first hear about Franconia Sculpture Park?

I found out about Franconia Sculpture Park from artists and students from the USA who visited Pedvale to create environmental art objects and cast iron sculptures. In 2012, I received a proposition to organize the 7th International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art at the Pedvale Open-Air Art Museum. In 2013, the conference organizing committee led by Professor Tamsie Ringler arrived at Pedvale. Under the lead of Tamsie Ringler, the conference took place successfully from June 19 to 23, 2014. During the conference there was a symposium “Iron.Stone” that resulted in 12 permanent sculptures.

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The stone sculpture here at Franconia also relates to an installation you have at Pedvale that keeps track of each year of your life. Tell us more about using stones to mark the passage of time:

This year marks my life’s 70th anniversary, which I am celebrating with the campaign “Games with the Stone II” that is taking place throughout the year. The campaign consists of performances and an exhibition of environmental art objects and sculptures.

At Pedvale I have created the environmental art object “Heartstones” devoted to my life – to the years lived. Currently it consists of 69 large haystack constructions painted in white with red stones hung in them. Every year on my birthday the composition is supplemented with another element. Also the environmental art object “69 + 1 = 70” created in Franconia figuratively represents my life. Glacier boulders to my mind are creatures whose personality, the same as me, has been created by time. The boulder’s shape figuratively expresses me; its surface, similarly to human skin, separates the inside of the boulder – the body – from the surrounding world. The boulder with 70 created holes, figuratively, with hanging rocks, expresses 69 years of life. Leaving the 70th opening – the year – empty, where a stone will be hung, the story will end on October 10, on my birthday, at the same time when I will hung in the 70th Heartstone at Pedvale.

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Your stone plantings involve the elements: air, earth, fire, and water. Tell us more about this ritual, and your visit to Lake Itasca while here in Minnesota:

10 years ago, in 2007, I started the stone planting and growing performance. At Pedvale there is a field where people from many countries of the world have planted stones. When planting a stone, people entrust to it some message or a wish and it matures until it is fulfilled. On the ground where the stone is planted the fire is stoked, branches of a cypress are burnt and the planter drinks water and pours it into the fire. When the branch is burnt with smoke and water evaporates, the message rises in the sky. At this moment, together with the message of the planter, 4 primary elements of the world unite – earth, fire, water and air.

When I go to another country, I take with me a Latvian stone with the messages transferred to it. Such a stone I had taken with me this time as well, to be planted in a special place, and I chose to plant it in the Mississippi River that flows through the whole of America. Thanks to Tamsie Ringler it took place at Mississippi headwaters near Lake Itasca. When planting a stone in other countries, I choose special places. There is physical ground, but there are also special natural, historic, cultural grounds. All of them foster maturing of the messages entrusted to the stone.

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How does your experience at Franconia compare to other residencies or international projects you’ve completed?

Each place where I get to in order to create artwork, is special to me. I try not only to create a work of art, but also to get to know and feel the environment where the created artwork will live afterwards. I observe the sky, sunrises and sunsets, I listen to bird songs, the roar of vehicles passing by, the chatter of museum visitors, as well as the nearest and farthest surroundings – fields, forests, rivers, lakes. I feel emotionally connected with the stone, surroundings and the people I had met. The same it was in Franconia, something of me was left there, but I took something along with me.

What are your plans upon returning to Riga/Pedvale? Are there any events projects happening at Pedvale Open Air Museum this summer that you would like to share?

Having returned home, I continue to play with stones. I keep on working with the ongoing projects. On May 20 I will go to Germany where in its south lies Mount Feldberg, the same as my surname. On its peak I have planned to plant a stone from Latvia and on its turn to take a stone from the mountain that I will plant at Pedvale on my birthday, on October 10. On this day I will hang the 70th Heartstone in the composition “Heartstones”, and at the same time at Franconia there will be hung the 70th yearstone.

Before that, on June 3, at Pedvale I will plant the stone from the Mississippi River together with the messages transferred to it. I will communicate to you all the planting time and instructions for the ritual. There has been developed a renovation project for Pedvale Manor to create an international artists’ residence. Currently I am working on a variety of documentation.

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Ojars and Laura were able to complete their fellowship thanks to generous support from the Starseed Foundation with additional support and speaking engagements through the American Latvian Association Cultural Foundation, the Unversity of Minnesota Visiting Artists & Critics Program, and the Minneapolis College of Art & Design.

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Subscribe to Franconia’s blog and never miss out on a FSP Spotlight interview. Check out earlier 2016 Spotlight installments: Zoran MojsilovEllie Murphy, Lu Xu, David SmithJess Hirsch, Ian Jones, and David B. Smith! We will befeaturing all of our 2016 Fellowship Artists throughout the winter, so stay tuned.

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