I dedicate this painting to all women and girls in Alabama, USA. The only person entitled to make a decision about their body is the owner of the body. Especially when it comes to such a profound decision of creating a life or choosing not to.. Women are like God that way (if you believe in one, I don’t) and you don’t interfere with God’s plan. The red cross in her back symbolizes delusional religious people and conservatives – who believe they are entitled to judge, force, exclude, punish, hate and make decisions for other people (in this case women). I was abused by a man of faith and during the attacks of physical and psychological abuse he used to shout: “I must beat the devil out of you! You have the devil inside you and he makes you into a whore!”
I will never stop fighting for women’s right to their bodies, sexuality, expression and independence.
This is the first collage in the upcoming “The Red Stories” suite. Girls, we are not keeping our mouths shut any longer! This is part of my #metoo story.
An oldie in new clothes! “The Tenants” by Mia Makila, 2019, digital collage (based on a work from 2006).
December 1st, early morning. I can’t believe Johnny will be here in 21 days. I am a workday away from accessing my own world of art and creativity. I have to finish up the digital piece I’m currently working on and start something new and fresh. A new painting perhaps.
Yesterday, I got a notification on Facebook from writer and scholar Line Henriksen that the new special issue of Women, Gender & Research by herself and Morten Bülowa and Erika Kvistad, had been published – with my art ( “Iceland” ) on the back cover! This is yet another reminder that my art belongs out there in the world. I have to wrap up the work on my new collection – and hand it over to the audience. ♥
All of my different sides are visible in my art.
I haven’t felt like myself for a while. I’m a little torn between different versions of myself. The office-me, the artist-me, the Swedish-speaking-me and the English-speaking me, the strong me, the scared me etc. It can be a confusing at times. I’ve always had many sides to my personality and also many layers within each side which makes me a bit complicated to say the least. This is also visible in my art. I don’t have one single signature style, but various forms of expressions. I can be raw, I can be cute, I can be dark, I can be colorful. And I can be all those things at once. Even though I win many different followers and collectors by using different techniques and styles, I sort of envy artist with a clear signature style – because they are so dedicated to it. I am too restless, too curious about the next level of expression. I am always moving forward and I can’t go back to a successful style or expression even if I’d want to. When I move on, I never look back. Going back to an old style wouldn’t feel genuine and it would look forced. So, I guess that is my style – to always reinvent myself and my visual expression. On a deeper level, I believe I’ve used my art to rediscover and reclaim all the sides to myself that used to be censored or oppressed by other people.
I had some kind of breakthrough in my thoughts about my future painting last night. It was wonderful. The Dead Lolita theme has felt old for some time now. I don’t connect with the role of Lolita anymore, I’ve come too far on my journey of self-empowerment. It has been four years since I first got the idea of killing my inner Lolita – and I think I killed her on the way without even noticing. All the artworks for the Lolita show will be included in other collections.
The new theme for a future collection of paintings is “black on black” – whatever that might be. I have worked a lot with demon portraits against a black background and I would say it is my signature style. I love playing around with different nuances of black, adding more life to the dark and, often flat, color. I will also go back to making mixed media pieces instead of just acrylic on canvas – I have some new ideas I want to explore when it comes to my technique. This is exciting! I have already prepared some canvases. All covered with black paint, of course.
I am finally back to making art again. It’s been 5 months since I finished the last piece in PhotoShop (The Blue Connection). Being creative is my natural state, so I am starting to feel like myself again. I can see that my style has changed a bit since the last 2 pieces. It has shifted from a darker expression to a more delicate and dreamy style. My collage technique has always been driven by a freudian selection of images – but I work on a much deeper level now. My new collection of works will be my most personal one yet. Like visual diary notes. Who needs therapy when you have a talent to dig into yourself and bring it out as an emotional confession through a clear visual expression?
It is early morning and I am thinking about my new collection No Place Like Home and how it was supposed to be a love story. I have been working on the collection for almost 4 years now. From the time I met Johnny until now when we are broken up – you can follow our love and connection by studying my work. A house adrift. Two houses making a connection. Creating a root system. Sparks. Fire. Then – a separation. A disconnection within the root system. And now what? Am I supposed to end the collection about “finding a home” – on a bad note (with The Blue Connection)? Perhaps I have to continue working on it until something comes along that will create a ‘happy ending’? What if I have to wait for years to find my happy ending?
I will continue working on this collection to see where it’ll take me.
My friend and legendary Twin Peaks singer Julee Cruise just posted my old portrait of her on her Instagram! Rumor has it that she will be performing in one of the last two episodes of the new season of Twin Peaks that airs tonight in the US. Even if my name is misspelled, I feel so grateful and happy. Can’t wait to see her on Twin Peaks. I just know it will be magical.
It is a sleepy Sunday. I haven’t done much this weekend, I am just trying to relax and recharge as much as I can. The plan is to go back to working with my art after I come home from my daytime job at the furniture store. And for that I need a lot of new energy.
My artist date for today got cancelled but yesterday I contacted another Swedish artist I’ve recently discovered and admire – Mikael Dalnäs and he fell in my love with my art as well. He suggested we should collaborate in the future and I would love to, once I am more into the flow of painting. I am still trying to find my groove in front of the easel.
Slowly, I am building my own network of like minded and amazing artists and creative people here in Sweden. I have big plans for us. Big and wonderful plans.
Red has always been my favorite color – and red was a theme in many of Ingmar Bergman’s movies. Perhaps the color red is what connects me to his inner world. The color of the inside. The color of our hearts, the world underneath our skin and the color of our wildest desire – the desire to connect, to bleed into each other’s existence.
Today my interview in the French online magazine Konbini was published – beautifully written and with brilliant questions by Alice Gautreau. You can read it in French here and the English translation below:
First, can you tell me your age and location:I am 38 years old and I live and work in Norrköping – a middle sized city on the east coast of Sweden. I am not that social and I feel like an outsider here, so I could basically be located anywhere in the world or in outer space for that matter – because I am mostly isolated and working in my studio, so I am not that integrated in society. The art genres I belong to are not very common in Sweden so I am definitely a ‘strange bird’ in the art world here.
How would you define or describe your art?
I usually try not to describe it but if I have to, I would call it “primitive-expressive surrealism”. Some people label my style as ‘lowbrow’, others call it ‘horror art’ but I think my art has more dimensions to it than that. I would describe it as very personal, intimate and raw. I am always looking for balance between dark and light, horror and humor, beauty and disgust, dream and nightmare, shame and lust, reality and fantasy. What defines my art is how I capture raw emotions without holding anything back – but never without elements that gives it a tension, otherwise it would look quite one dimensional.
What is or what are the medium(s) you use?
I am working with many different creative expressions (visual art, writing, photography) – but mostly with digital art and painting. My recent work is mostly digital. I have been developing my own technique in PhotoShop for more than 10 years and it allows me to “paint with images” instead of traditional paint. However, I have not abandoned painting, it is still a passion, but I find complete artistic freedom in the digital expression since it is a such a flexible and direct media.
What are your influences?
I am inspired by many things, many artistic expressions and styles – outsider art, primitive art, the surrealists such as Frida Kahlo and Henri Magritte, by Disney and pop culture, by movie directors such as David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, Tim Burton and Alfred Hitchcock and photographers like Roger Ballen and Cindy Sherman. I love folk art – especially Mexican folk art and their votive paintings (prayer paintings) and American Colonial Folk art portraits and I think my style is influenced by the simple and direct expressions of amateur painters. I love everything that feels genuine and honest and I hope that my art reflects that as well.
Which subjects inspire you the most? Why?
I am working with subjects that are found in the human soul, psyche and heart – like pain (emotional and physical), lust, shame, fear, rage, self-protection, longing and disgust. I think I love the intimacy between people, intimacy in the sense that there are no barriers or walls to hide the real emotions, the naked truth about our inner core. Our private and secret hearts within our beating hearts. I am inspired by the way we suppress important emotions and replace them with masks and attitudes that are far from who we really are. We are all honest with ourselves as children but somewhere along the way, we start to mask and hide ourselves and many people lose connection to their ‘inner child’. I have lost the connection to myself many times, but I am always struggling to make my inner child stay alive. That child is the real me and will always be so even if my skin is old and wrinkled. This is also visible in my art. I call them “core dolls” – children of our souls.
Who are the actual artists that seem close to your work?
I try not to compare my style with other artists, I am self-taught and I have my own personal mythology so it feels strange for me to look for artists who are like me because it is such a personal thing.
Who are the actual artists that impress you?
When it comes to painters, I look up to American art brut artist Gregory Jacobsen. I love the way he uses bright or pastel colors even if the subjects in his paintings are grotesque or gross. I am impressed by that juxtaposition between beauty and the repulsive. I am also impressed by the early renaissance painters, Like Pieter Brueghel and Hieronymus Bosch and the way they illustrate human madness and a multi layered psychological chaos – which is both enchanting and creepy. Frida Kahlo impresses me in the way she used her pain and vulnerability in her art and made into her strength and beauty. I am impressed by Lars Von Trier and the way he uses his movies to illustrate his own periods of depression. I guess what impresses me most about other artists is an honest approach to expose other dimensions of life than the flattering and perfect illusion that most people prefer to consume. I love artists who deal with vulnerability in their work and being absolutely unapologetic about it – there is no shame in the way vulnerability is exposed as both fragile and raw.
Can you tell us about your main series?
I started making dark artistic expressions during a time of deep depression after a trauma in 2006 and if you follow the development since then, in a chronological order, you can see the healing process and how I am slowly leaving the darkness behind. I am currently working on two new collections of works – one about finding a sense of home (in myself, in the world, in life in general – and in love), hence all the houses in my latest works, and another about destroying distorted self-images. I use my Lolita demons as a symbol for those destructive self-images and in this body of work, I am killing her to make room for a new self-image. That is why the collection is called “Post Mortem Lolita”. My Lolita demons demonstrate dark sexual themes like humiliation, shame and pain, but also rage and self-protection. They have been forced into a submissive position but are now being loud and dominant about their feelings and wounds. They are now demanding space and attention instead of accepting rejection and humiliation. I guess it is also a way to find a sense of ‘home’ – to be home in a loud voice that speaks up instead of being neglected and gagged.
Did you study art or something else? Where?
No, I am self taught in every creative area (painting, digital art, writing, photography). I learn by studying the works of other artists and by learning by making mistakes and finding new approaches to the media I am working with, be it painting, making collages or working in PhotoShop. My method is basically learning by trial and errors.
Does drawing/painting have therapeutic or cathartic virtues on you?
Oh yes, absolutely. My art and my creativity has saved my life many times. It is the way my soul is breathing.
What drives you to create?
To express myself in a way that feels absolutely true to my inner voice – to me that is a spiritual freedom. Many times in my life, I have been forced to be something I am not in order to fit into this society, into social contexts or to fit other people’s expectations of who I should or could be for their benefit – especially as a woman. I am constantly struggling to keep the connection to myself intact, because it is so easy to lose it to the mainstream, pre-made ideas of how life should be lived, how a woman should behave or should not behave etc. That is why I am trying not to watch TV, read magazines or learn about trends. I want to create my own world where I feel free to be myself without being ‘contaminated’ by trends or preconceived ideas of how I ought to act or feel about myself or my life (and Death).
Do you feel like your art is a fruit of our time and society? Why?
Yes, because I am dealing with reactions to what is expected of me and I think those expectations are products of these times and the way society is centered around the wrong things (money, power and conformity). Although, I am happy I didn’t live in past times or in societies which are even more strict and heartless. I am grateful for living in a time and place where I am free to explore alternative ways of looking at life, myself and the world without the possibility of being censored – or killed, for having an open and private perspective on things. I could not imagine living in such a society, I would probably not survive in such a place.
What is the message about your art, if any?
The message in my art is to be true to our inner voice. To ‘face our demons’ and try to make friends with them instead of hiding them or to let them rule our lives. If we try to hide our demons, they will haunt us in the most excruciating way and if we let them control our lives, we will never be free. Our demons can’t leave our spirit, they are part of us, they are indestructible. But they can destroy us. That is why it’s better to make peace with them, to get to know them and give them room to exist. I try to have fun with them. To give them a party hat and make them look cute so I can bare sharing my life with them!
Could you tell us about your relationship with skin? I mean, skin seems to be an important subject in your work: you mistreat it, often paint it damaged, bloated, with sores and scars.
Ever since childhood I’ve had a serious case of eczema and in periods of stress or anxiety, I tend to break out with horrible rashes and hives. My childhood was filled with periods of physical pain and shame – and I think that has shaped my personal mythology a lot. I use a lot of polka dots, melting or rotting flesh, exposed nerves and scars in my art – all which are linked to my childhood trauma of being ill with eczema. But there is also another dimension to the naked and raw skin in my work – I am looking for the world underneath our skin, our inner world. The metaphysical world. Then, the skin is a barrier that I have to break through in order to go deeper.
How did your career take off?
When I was invited to be part of the European Lowbrow art movement 10 years ago, I finally found an artistic context that felt like home to me. Being part of an underground art genre gave my art a playground where it suddenly made more sense. I felt appreciated and loved by an audience that could connect and identity with my inner Universe. It meant so much to me, it still does. That was when my career took off and I got a lot of attention, but here in Sweden and abroad. I feel very grateful for the way I got more successful – it was through the love and acceptance of the audience.
Do you have upcoming shows or publications?
The two collections of works I am currently working on will be my comeback as an artist, after the years of not being creative or active as an artist. It will be very powerful. I can’t wait to get the new stuff out there in new art show for the world to see – where it belongs.
photography by mia makila
En konstnär har tre hjärtan som klämtar i samma takt; det som sitter i kroppen, det som sitter längst inne i själen och så ögats hjärta. Dessa hjärtan älskar både ömsint och vilt. Inget är så älskvärt som skönheten i alla sår och sprickor som verkligheten förtvivlat försöker dölja bakom sina tunga ridåer.
I just woke up from a strange dream. I was in an old and abandoned SPA facility with a friend. It looked like a tiled circus tent with bright colors. We looked around and found a staircase to another floor, where an old lady had a dusty record store. There was a door to a garden in the store. I was carrying a naked wax doll into the garden and put it on the grass. Suddenly she came alive and her body became warm and she looked at me with her eyes wide open. She started to scream. I picked her up and held her in my arms. She made resistance. She wanted to escape but I wouldn’t let her. Her heart was beating so fast. She was strong, but I had her locked in my arms. I tried to soothe her and hush her while sitting on the grass with her facing the garden. I could feel it working. Her heartbeats were finally slowing down. “Good girl. Your name is Echo”. I said. Then I woke up. I could write a story based on this dream, it was like a seed to something creative.
Yesterday I spent the whole day in PhotoShop. My wrist is a little sore today. But I am having so much fun. At the moment I am working on two pieces about houses and they will be the last ones. I need one house where my story begins – where my trauma started, The working title is “Genesis”. And then I need one last piece where the story ends. It will be a love tribute to my home with Johnny.
I think I am done with the houses now. I started making them in 2014, right after I had left the man and the house in Stockholm. When I became ‘homeless’ in so many ways. I don’t feel homeless anymore. Not in any way. So it’s time to wrap up the digital suite about houses.
I feel like I am entering a new phase in my creativity. My skills are improving so fast and my ideas are bolder and more complex. I am also using more contrasts in my work. It highlights the rawness of my style.
Today is International Women’s Day and I am celebrating it by refusing to be held back by anything or anyone. Not by my critics, not by my fear and not by my own past. When I was living in that house in Stockholm, I felt censored and I held back so much of what was me. It’s very uncomfortable for me to look at my art from that time. They are ridiculously foggy and submissive to the viewer. You can hardly see anything more than a pastel colored mist.
Here is “Tess” from 2012. You can see how I’ve worked up the contrasts in the first version and the original, foggy version:
More foggy works from 2012:
You can almost follow my journey through confidence and bad self-esteem just by looking at the palette in my art. It went from fiery to foggy and now I am all about contrasts.
Work from 2006:
I will rest my wrist today and spend the day doing other things. I just can’t seem to shake off that dream. Echo is hauting my mind.
I have spent the day with old episodes of Frasier and writing poetry that I will add to my digital art. I’m feeling a bit drained from yesterday’s experience. But I had so much fun up on that stage.
The discussion went smoothly and I made the audience laugh many times. I like making people laugh – even if I am talking about serious matters.
Before the discussion started, some of my horror sisters were swapping recipes of the perfect fake blood and how to stuff animal intestines to make it look even more gross and fabulous. I found it very amusing. “What is the best ‘base blood?'” they asked. And ‘You’ve got to add some Burnt umbra to the Crimson to make the perfect shade of blood when you are painting, otherwise it will just look like ketchup.”
When we were asked about what we consider to more frightening – reality or fantasy, there were no hesitation to state that reality is far more frightening than any horror movie or artistic expression – and that life itself is a very scary concept. Some of us create horror to deal with dark themes found within ourselves – others are celebrating certain aesthetics associated with horror.
When the question about artistic influences came up, I mentioned early renaissance artists like Bosch and Bruegel but also David Lynch and my art crush Edvard Munch. Other girls were inspired by Mary Shelley, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Tim Burton, the symbolists and the PreRaphaelites.
Then we went on discussing the worst horror clichés – I said I can’t stand the asian horror cliché of creepy women with long, black hair – I find hair beautiful and sensual” I said and added: “Perhaps that’s why I make my demons bald”. A few of the girls hated the cliché of the slutty blonde who gets killed early in horror movies and typical scream queens.
When asked whether being a woman in the horror business gives us an advantage or if we experience difficulties because of our gender, I talked about how I feel free to explore raw sexual themes (especially the sexuality of young girls) and perversions without being questioned. I definitely think a man who would do what I do, would have a tougher time. I am not judged as “perverted” or “insane” but rather considered to be “exotic” and “daring”. I love being a woman. And I love exploring the world of horror from a woman’s point of view. So much of my horror is about fear, shame and pain – whilst many male horror artists deal with subjects like rage, violence and intimidation. I think there is a difference between how men and women work with darker themes, but of course there are many exceptions. Some women celebrate vengeance in their horror expressions and aggressive energies – the only aggressive quality to my work is the way I let my vulnerable lolita demons take up space and flaunt their wounds and their pain. I have been censored and suppressed by many men in my life – and through my art I am able to break free and to be loud and say “fuck you!” without being aggressive as a person. It liberates me. I am able to turn my shame into artistic expressions of vulnerability and then it’s easier for me to accept myself and feel more empathetic towards myself. It is my way of healing and recovering from humiliation and submission.
I am happy that I got the opportunity to talk about these things in public – and now I am hungry for more public adventures. This was the starting point in the second chapter of my art career and I finally broke through the wall that’s been standing between me and life outside my studio. From here, anything is possible. And I mean it.
The panel discussion about WOMEN IN HORROR was amazing! I felt a sisterhood to my fellow horror creators and I could have stayed on that stage longer because it was such an inspiring discussion! I also took pictures of other things which inspired me during my two days in Stockholm, I will post them later.
The women in horror included (from left to right): Aurora Walderhaug (horror art, horror comics), me, Ella Moe (horror creator in music, film and art), Valentina Chamorro Westergårdh (horror movie director), Annika Algrot-Andersson (horror photographer and costumer designer) and Sarah Giercksky (horror movie director and enthusiast).
I will write a longer post about what we discussed tomorrow, now I’m just ready to knock out – but I’m feeling happy and proud of myself. (You can find the new post here)
They introduced us as “the finest of female horror artists in Sweden”.
I am taking a couple of days off to just focus on my meditation and making preparations for the panel discussion on Saturday. I have so many thoughts about the horror genre and about why I am making horror art in the first place. It’s funny, because I am not that into the genre in general. I don’t listen to dark music (if you don’t count Bach and Mozart as dark composers), I am not a big fan of horror movies and have never read any horror novels. Although when it comes to visual art, I prefer darker expressions, but it doesn’t have to be horror art. Is Swedish artist Lena Cronqvist making horror art? Roger Ballen? Are the films of David Lynch expressions of horror? Or Bergman movies? Does horror have to be a negative energy? There are so many questions in my head right now.
I am definitely bursting my own comfort zone by stepping into the arena again. It is both scary and wonderful. I made a new year’s resolution to “find the pulse of life” in 2017 – and I had no idea it would only take a couple of months to find it. Funny how life works.