Finding middle ground across the sea

woman in red jacket pictured in Iceland
Mason student Nadya Steare recently completed a two-month residency at the Akureyri Art Museum in Iceland where she worked full time on a new series. Photo provided

At only 20 years old, artist Nadya Steare has held her first solo exhibition abroad.

Steare, nicknamed Bella in her department, is in her senior year at George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. She recently completed a two-month residency at the Akureyri Art Museum in Iceland where she worked full time on a new series.

“Much of my artwork focuses on human interaction with the natural world,” said Steare. “I work with a mix of recycled, natural and manufactured objects in the realms of painting and small-scale installation.”

“Working with these materials has sparked several questions on the relevance of found objects and earth-based media in the contemporary art field as well as its place in coming to terms with globalization and inevitable environmental change,” she said.

Steare, a self-proclaimed environmental enthusiast and activist, traveled to Akureyri after discovering its proximity to one of Iceland’s most successful reforestation projects, Kjarnaskogur. The body of work Steare created explores the influence of reforestation on distance perception and landscape identity.

“I would like to use my skills to help with the development of more sustainable practices in the visual arts industry,” said Steare.

museum exhibit of landscapes
At the end of her residency, Steare had a solo exhibition at the Deiglan Gallery in Akureyri titled Middle Ground. Photo provided

At the end of her residency, she had a solo exhibition at the Deiglan Gallery in Akureyri. Her exhibit was titled Middle Ground to “reflect the exploration of landscape identity and depth perception in the work,” she said. “It was briefly fulfilling to see all of the paintings displayed together and how well they were received by the community.”

Steare said that her Mason professor and mentor, Erik Sandberg, guided her through the residency experience.

“His straightforwardness and sincerity when discussing artwork consistently challenged me to grow as a critical thinker and has always motivated me to advance in my studies and personal investigations,” she said.

Steare has taken many classes with Sandberg including Figurative Painting this fall.

“My main objective is to help students refine their technical skills and to encourage better paths to expressing their ideas,” said Sandberg, who is an adjunct professor in Mason’s School of Art. “I think that being able to manage both form and content in your work as an artist is essential.”

“Bella is quite talented and has a gift of aesthetic sensibilities and maturity. She is one of the most driven students I have encountered in some time,” he said. “Bella is way ahead of the curve in terms of artistic experiences, and she shows no sign of slowing.”

Steare’s residency was sponsored by Mason’s Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR).

“We have six programs through our office,” said Karen T. Lee, assistant director of OSCAR. “The Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP) fit Nadya’s interest the best.”

After graduating with her BFA in art and visual technology, Steare plans to pursue an interdisciplinary master’s degree in art and ecology. “In addition to continuing my exploration of landscape identity, hopefully involving a return to Iceland, I’d also like to further investigate natural alternatives to manufactured artist products.”

A second and more elaborate version of Steare’s exhibition, re-titled Víðsýni, will be displayed on the lower-level gallery of the Art and Design Building on the Fairfax Campus from October 31–November 13.