Photo by Dillon Anthony

KATY KELLEHER (b.1987 USA) is a writer based in Maine. Kelleher was an artist in residence during EXPEDITION 8 - La Wayaka Current / Arctic Location.

"I have been studying folklore and mythology for years, and I am currently working on a series of short stories inspired by cold places and culture. Incorporating elements of fairytales, myths, and legends, these stories take on a life of their own—they are modern myths that seek to speak to the earth and its history (but with a contemporary twist). The works in my short story collection have been inspired by Iceland, Newfoundland, Fogo Island, and Maine. 

I would like to use this residency to research Sami myths and culture. I want to learn about their heritage and folklore. I want to do two separate literary projects: First, I want to help document the legends of the area. I want to research, understand, and respect this unique culture. Second, I plan to use these stories as a jumping off point for writing literary fiction. 

I want to work to create a series of evocative short stories that reflect the heritage, strength, and beauty of both our natural world and the people who inhabit it. These pieces are my way of thanking the earth for its beauty, and my way of joining into a long tradition of myth-makers and storytellers." - Katy Kelleher

Kelleher is a teacher, writer, and editor who lives in a small log cabin in the woods of Buxton, Maine. She teaches children about nature writing and mythology through a local nonprofit called The Telling Room. Her writing appears frequently in local and national publications, including Art New England, Maine magazine, To Market magazine, Boston magazine, Femsplain, Jezebel, and others. She has contributing reporting to NPR and the Wall Street Journal.  Her first book, Handcrafted Maine, is due out in 2017 from Princeton Architectural Press. 

Link to artist website



As part of her residency, Katie collected stories and travelled through the arctic region including making a trip to Finland and two the Russian border. Below are a series of photos Kelleher took throughout her travels and some samples of her writing works. Images source Instagram @katykelleher

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Seven Impressions of an Island


Storm days are my favorite days, the hours before the snow hits and the ominous clouds gather, darkening the horizon from pale winter blue to deep, near purple gray. The ocean turns to mercury, a mirror for the dramatic tension playing out above. Except there are pools of turquoise, so clear and sudden, where the water shines like jewels, equally precious. Then the storm comes calling, and all is white and loud, and it ushers in the loudest silence I’ve ever heard, and I listen to my own breath.


“When the Germans came and burned everything to the ground, the people left with two things: their Bibles and their papers,” explains a man with tattooed arms and a capable air. The people of this land, he says, were forced south, stripped of all they owned. They buried rocking chairs and pigs in the ground, trying to save their most precious things. They were told not to, but they came back, with their Bibles and their papers, ready to reclaim their acres of green, their sandy shores, their windswept mountains. They came back, because something called them back, because home is a word in every language, because it means something, to be from a place. Especially a place like this.


Yellow-haired bright against the snow, she stops for a moment to take out a camera, black box large in delicate hands. Nearby, wild creatures bow their horned heads and take hooves to the white crust of snow. Their legs are like knuckles, their motions are gracefully inglorious, digging for food. She snaps away, and we both watch, creatures feral and foreign. The reindeer catch wind of us and gallop, big leaping steps, away from our noise.


Spring twilight days and the snow is thick around my face, stinging as it hits my chapped lips and open eyes. As I walk away from the house, a flock of birds finds my footsteps disturbing. Small and black and white, with thrilling songs, they take flight all at once, a wave that crests and breaks over the roofline, gone for now.


A woman bends over a hole in the ice, her short hair flopping over her eyes. We lean together and peer down at the fish, which flops red-bellied and slick-backed. It seeks, desperately and futilely, to find its way back under, down deep into the frozen lake, where its speckled self can heal. A man with a kind smile and an unending desire for speed and wind stills himself for a moment, and with hands red from the cold, he guides the fish gently back to safety. Catch and release, we take nothing when we leave.


I meet the principal of the one red school on the boat to Hammerfest, where she carries a black instrument case and accompanies students to the mainland. My stomach swoops with the curves of the ocean, the rise and fall of the ferry, but I ignore it. She speaks of music and youthful filmmakers and children so precocious I can’t believe their true ages. She is not from here either, but she is here now, and I marvel at this fact, at her bravery and boldness and her open face and her willingness to give. I can learn something here, I think. I know.


When the sky clears at night and the magnetic forces of the universe are aligned just so, the aurora graces us with his presence. (Is it a he? For me, it is. He is a composer, a dancer, a musician and magician, but he is most certainly a he.) A girl with braids creeps through the house trying to find those who are awake. “There are lights,” she whispers to us. We go outside and stand like stone statues, heads thrown back to soak it in. We are grateful for this cathedral, this sky show for us to worship.