Some of my favourite role models: Anne Shirley (the main character in L.M Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables), Ingmar Bergman, J.K Rowling, Pippi Longstocking, Frida Kahlo and Edvard Munch.
Last week I made a list of my role models, to see if they have anything in common – and what that would say about me. What I found was actually quite surprising. My role models are a mix of artists, fictitious characters and creative personalities (I also included some scientists like Stephen Hawking and the whole institution of NASA. The Weta Workshop in New Zealand is the perfect example of the meeting point –where creativity, imagination, absolute dedication and respect for make-believe worlds come together) but they did have a great deal in common.
Most of them are survivors of both internal and external struggles; depression, anxiety, overcoming illnesses or some kind physical purgatory but also the struggle of maintaining their core beliefs and integrity in a society which doesn’t allow much space for that kind of genuine spiritual freedom. They refuse to victimize themselves although they are emotionally or physically crippled in some way – instead they embrace vulnerability and use it as a source of raw material to put into their work. Almost like a testimony of human nature – somewhere between the horror and supernaturalism of life itself.
My role models are ambitious, curious and focused and all that is woven into their creativity. They use it boldly to express themselves and to be seen in a world with closed eyes for whatever is painted outside the lines of conformity and any approved ideology. They are brave and courageous in that sense. As a teenager, I was obsessed with Madonna and her song Express Yourself was like my own private anthem of who I wanted to become and what I wanted to achieve in life; “Express yourself, so you can respect yourself”. My role models are individualists who are celebrating their true nature instead of hiding it behind mainstream ideals and ideas of appropriate decorum, perfectionism and conformity. They follow their own path. Uncompromisingly. They do things in unconventional ways and add humor and depth to it. Like Pippi and the way she goes about scrubbing her wooden floor. The boring task of house cleaning turns into a fun adventure. It is liberating.
The most striking feature my role models have in common – is their need to create magic. Reality can be harsh, raw and unforgivably hard at times – and the antidote is and has always been the product of human imagination. Religion, occultism and the fantasy worlds of artists, writers, musicians, dancers and actors have served as escapism and vicarious truth and realities since the dawn of humanity. Nietzsche claimed that “no artist tolerates reality”.
Anne Shirley in L.M Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (1908) creates her own magical worlds which allows her to escape the painful reality of being an orphan – and the misfortune of being a misfit with a deeper intellect and more vivid imagination than society allowed for a young girl at the time (doomed with red hair and all).
The need for instant transcendence and transformation is translated in the artist’s imagination and creativity as a gateway to a higher level of living and existing. A ‘homemade’ space of total freedom and a place where magic is allowed to happen without any threatening consequences and the adamant qualities of real life.
The artist creates a Universe in which he/she is both God and the vulnerable mortal, but with a sense of control of his/her own destiny. Like Alexander in the opening scene of Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander (1982) where he is seeking magic beyond his own boredom of passing time (and ultimately the waste of life).
The results of my research about role models really surprised me – I suddenly realized how much of them I can see in myself. I share a lot of qualities and strength that I admire and respect in these people. It kind of shocked me to see how much of them was reflected within myself. I am ambitious, brave, creative, I too am overcoming traumas and hard times without accepting the role of a permanent victim. I am searching for that spiritual freedom by following my own path. And I never thought I would discover just how important magic is to me. It made me think of the years of creativity blockages and mental paralysis – where I created my own worlds of magic at home – with interior decorating almost like backdrops or settings – where my imagination could run wild and free, until I was able to create art again (any moment now).
My “winter room” (which was featured in a local interior decorating magazine) in 2009:
and this is in my next home, a house in Stockholm, it’s the same room that I just kept transforming over and over again (2009-2014):
It is important to examine our role models and what they stand for – because it will expose something very vital about ourselves. They are there to remind us who we really are, beyond all the crap we are going through in life. They are our spiritual family where everything makes sense in the most comforting way.
And once in a while I get messages like this on Facebook: