Hrafnildur Arnardottir, socially known by her unusually misguided nickname, Shoplifter, is a mixed media artist. Originally from Iceland, Shoplifter is now actively beautifying the New York art scene with her multi-facetted interdisciplinary art practice. This past week I attended the unveiling of Shoplifter’s most recent installation piece, displayed at the Summer Solstice Reyka event on the roof top of King & Grove in Williamsburg. Shoppy, as her friends call her, glowed adjacent to her sun sculpture, which was the pivotal marker celebrating the night of Iceland’s Midnight Sun.
Kat Slootsky: I have read about how your nickname, Shoplifter, originally came to be through a misunderstood introduction. Since then, what have been some of the exceptional reactions you’ve received from introducing yourself that way?
Shoplifter: People usually look at me in sheer disbelief, then crack up… It’s not the name they expected of a gray haired lady, but then I explain, it’s a good icebreaker.
Kat: Has this pseudonym formed a pseudo-personailty for itself as well?
Shoplifter: You can say that it has helped me to allow myself to work on a more humorous level, it’s hard to take yourself too seriously with a name like that.
Kat: In the past you’ve worked with self-created textiles using a wide array of mediums and materials, specifically hair, to speak to cultural themes of beauty and vanity. How does your newest instillation piece, which you will be unveiling at the June 21st Summer Solstice Reyka event, relate to these ubiquitous themes in your work?
Shoplifter: In the past few years I’ve been working on a series of wall pieces that are planets, stars, and comets; the word comet comes from Greek and means “longhaired star.” The sun sculpture is a continuation of this galaxy exploration – now in a large and three dimensional scale.
Kat: The day of 24-hour sunlight, the summer solstice, is an important aspect of Icelandic culture. Can you speak more about your inspiration and interests in Iceland’s geographical elements and how they have presently been muse to your current installation?
Shoplifter:I grew up celebrating the longest day of the year on summer solstice, we would go out party into the bright night, get naked and roll in the morning dew for good luck. When creating this piece of art for Reyka, I wanted to create something that would not only bring to life the 24 hours of Icelandic solstice, but that would also do justice to the inventive spirit in which Reyka was created.
Everything about Icelandic nature is inspiring from the dark and rainy to the bright and colorful, and it continues to filter through in my work on both a conscious and unconscious level. It’s tricky to address it without it becoming too kitschy, but a little kitsch is fine with me. I like referencing pop culture and there is a strong influence from cartoons and other playful elements in our culture.
Kat: For me, you work translates as culturally relatable and present in todays global social dialogue. Does this summer solstice installation similarly unite such global concepts, or does it have a more specific relevance to Icelandic culture?
Shoplifter: Now that I have lived in New York nearly half of my life I think that the two worlds have collided into one personal concept. That of opposites, extremes and exploration of the influences of such different places. I continue to be inspired by the culture and country I grew up in as well as the life in New York. I have found a comfort zone where I have developed artistic language to speak of these inspirations and they seem to be understood on a global level. I feel very lucky to have these worlds in the palm of my hand.