When I moved to the United States from Sweden at age eight, I was immediately thrown into a classroom and expected to learn English on my own. Television served as my after-school tutorial, and my English teachers were Fonzie from Happy Days and Jim Henson’s Muppets. The good news was that I gradually did learn English; the bad news was that some of the language I repeated from television landed me in the "timeout room."
It was during those long hours spent in “timeout” that I was first exposed to the world of art. Upon seeing the great masterpieces in art books from the school library, I immediately set out to imitate them. I feverishly scribbled sketch after sketch, using my school handouts as drawing paper. Unfortunately, some of the great works I mimicked were depictions of Greek mythology; when they were discovered, my teachers chastised me for drawing such explicit subject material. More time in the timeout room for me.
Mischief and mythology combined to inspire me to do art. Each photograph in this series illustrates a story from Swedish folklore or Norse mythology. The subjects in the photographs are my parents. When I was young, I used to act out Astrid Lindgren’s stories of Pippi Longstocking, and to this day my photographs reflect this acting out. Acting out may be a family tradition; through these photographs, I have learned that the games I played, my parents also played as children. Expressing my personality is easy in this medium, even easier than speaking in my native Swedish tongue.
My relationship with my parents is a continuous journey. They are my best friends. They tolerate my mischief, act out my playful ideas, and allow me to photograph them in intimate situations. The photos displayed are a part of my journey; it is through these photos that I began to learn more about my parents. While their aging has become increasingly apparent to me, so have the similarities in our personalities. We have grown older, but we have not grown apart; instead, we have grown closer together. Each day, we become more mischievous with each other. On a very personal level, I know my parents’ time with me is limited; I want to remember them, as they are part of me. This project is therefore a family album, but one which expands the notion of how a family album is constructed. By presenting my parents at play, I have preserved them and their mannerisms, similar to the Vikings who retold tales of the playful Norse pantheon to their family clans.
Since this, my aesthetic has not changed, only my philosophy. I have gone from the simplistic desire to make everything pleasing to the desire to make everything personal. This change has been unexpectedly complex. By introducing the personal into my art, I have made myself the exhibit. My choice of what to reveal and my motivations for this personal work become legitimate subjects for analysis. My early mimicry of the visually pleasing was far easier; that was simply a matter of love. Making art about family has forced me to examine my feelings and confront my previous limitations. Also, it has made me aware that my parents are rapidly getting older; I now realize that the expiration date on their birth certificate is coming up very soon. I want to remember my parents as part of my genetic personality, and hope to remember them true through their play.
Visit my family and me. Come share our games