The Westfjords – Vestfirðir – region is the most affective landscape in all of Iceland, with a power to seize and move the soul like perhaps only the best of Indian classical music can. Towering flat-topped mountains define its fjords and give the area its topographical signature. But such supreme beauty also exacts a price: this remote and sparsely populated corner is burdened by harsh, unforgiving weather. The land here has been steadily emptying out the past 75 years. Geologically the Westfjords are older than the rest of Iceland – glacial fingerprints are everywhere.
Selárdalur is located on the southern shore of sublime Arnarfjörður. In this valley lived Samúel Jónsson (1885-1969), often referred to as an “artist with a child’s heart.” His is said to be a form of naiveté art, and his work survives today near his dwellings which include a church and a house. A restoration project is currently underway at the site.
Selárdalur was also home to another maverick, the hermit Gísli Gíslason (1907-1986), who lived alone on the farm Uppsalir, completely sealed off from all human contact. It is said that when he eventually ‘came back,’ the prolonged isolation had impaired his ability to speak Icelandic.