Ok, I´ll be honest. The gallerist did not have to work very hard to get me excited about exhibiting my art in Paris, but if I WOULD have hesitated, these words would have won me over in a heartbeat:
“The gallery is located in the very heart of historic Marais district in Paris, and the ambition of the gallery is to promote animals art by bringing together different kind of artists: painters, sculptors, photographers, visual artists and creators. Animals Art Styles customers gather around our animal passion and together we take part of the fight against all forms of violence towards animals.”

I know that most of you actually live in France, and I understand that imagining a trip to Paris can´t seem all that exotic and exciting to you, but for someone like me – who has hardly ever gone further than to the nearest town, this is PRETTY huge.

I will bring with me a bunch of moose skulls, a bearded husband, and on december 15th I will be there to drink some wine, say some ooh:s and aaah:s, trying to keep the husband from singing flight of the concords “foux du fafa” in front of important artsy people, maybe steal someones beret and dance in a fountain. And most likely get lost somewhere along the way.
Come, if you can, and bring all of your friends!

Animals Art Styles, 46 rue du Roi de Sicile 75004 Paris

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How I (don´t) clean my skulls.

Last thursday my little sister Emilia sent me a message with a picture of a beautiful moose skull in a bucket. Her class was learning how to bake flatbread at a farm, and the woman living there had found this lady moose and wanted my sister to give it to me. Word gets around when you live in a small community, and it makes me so happy that people around me seem to appreciate what I do – and even want to help!

As you can see in the picture she has a slight pink color (you can´t see the smell, but it´s there too!), which means she´s to fresh for me to work on. I guess the proper way to get her in order would be soaking her in hydrogen peroxide, but to be honest – that stuff freaks me out. I have no intention in harming mother nature while making my art, and even though I´m sure it would be very efficient I could never lay a skull down in a bath of chemicals.
She will rest in the woods near my house until nature has drained her and she is all dry, and then I will give her a bath – in water. There´s no hurrying when trying to keep magic safe. 🙂

Exhibition in Finland last summer.

Last summer I exhibited my art in Finland together with two amazing artists, my good friend Erik Lindström (Dirty Elmo) and the lovely Anita Forsell. We all took a boat over the ocean and got to spend the weekend at this wonderful place with our beautiful gallerist Jeanette and her family.

If you´re ever near Yttermark, Finland in the summertime – take your time and visit Jeanette at Galleri Granliden!

All photos by: Jimmy Lilja – www.jimmylilja.com

My eight foxes.

I´ve always been (secretly) quite pleased with how my skulls almost never move away from home, and now I´m suddenly learning how to let them go. After an exhibition people always asks me the same question – “did you get to sell anything?” – and I have never been able to say “nope, I got to keep them all” without a stupid happy smile on my face. I painted eight foxes one and a half year ago, and in just a couple of weeks almost all of them have gotten new homes.
Even though it´s hard for me to let them go, it´s such a wonderful experience to get a connection with total strangers who want to adopt something that I have put my heart and soul into. Their new parents, 😚 Amandine, Robert, Terry, Imke, Fanny & Lucas, are all so sweet that I´m not worried at all about them being appreciated and loved in their new homes.

I will search the woods for more fox skulls this summer, but until I find any these two (Ritva & Veikko) are the only ones I have left:

Painted fox skull

One of my all time favourite stories:

La Loba

There is an old woman who lives in a hidden place that everyone knows but few have ever seen.  As in the fairy tales of Eastern Europe, she seems to wait for lost or wandering people and seekers to come to her place.

She is circumspect, often hairy, always fat, and especially wishes to evade most company.  She is both a crower and a cackler, generally having more animal sounds than human ones.

They say she lives among the rotten granite slopes in Tarahumara Indian territory.  They say she is buried outside Phoenix near a well.  She is said to have been seen traveling south to Monte Alban in a burnt-out car with the back window shot out.  She is said to stand by the highway near El Paso, or ride shotgun with truckers to Morelia, Mexico, or that she has been sighted walking to market above Oaxaca with strangely formed boughs of firewood on her back. She is called by many names: La Huesera, Bone Woman; La Trapera, The Gatherer; and La Loba, Wolf Woman.

The sole work of La Loba is the collecting of bones.  She is known to collect and preserve especially that which is in danger of being lost to the world.  Her cave is filled with the bones of all manner of desert creatures: the deer, the rattlesnake, the crow.  But her speciality is said to be wolves.

She creeps and crawls and sifts through the montanas, mountains, andarroyos, dry river beds, looking for wolf bones, and when she has assembled an entire skeleton, when the last bone is in place and the beautiful white sculpture of the creature is laid out before her, she sits by the fire and thinks about what song she will sing.

And when she is sure, she stands over the criatura, raises her arms over it, and sings out.  That is when the rib bones and leg bones of the wolf begin to flesh out and the creature becomes furred.  La Loba sings some more, and more of the creature comes into being; its tail curls upward, shaggy and strong.

And La Loba sings more and the wolf creature begins to breathe.

And still La Loba sings so deeply that the floor of the desert shakes, and as she sings, the wolf opens its eyes, leaps up, and runs away down the canyon.

Somewhere in its running, whether by the speed of its running, or by splashing its way into a river, or by way of a ray of sunlight or moonlight hitting it right in the side, the wolf is suddenly transformed into a laughing woman who runs free toward the horizon.

So it is said that if you wander the desert, and it is near sundown, and you are perhaps a little bit lost, and certainly tired, that you are lucky, for La Loba may take a liking to you and show you something – something of the Soul.

from Women Who Run With The Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

Yesterday’s preparations for this weekends exhibition.

Today is the first day of “Sundsvalls Konstrunda”. A whole bunch of local artists open the doors to their homes and studios, and anyone who´s interested can pick up a map, go for a drive and spend the day meeting artists and looking at their art.
Eight artists (me, Jimmy Lilja, Charlie Lilja, Erik Lindström, Maria Malm, Hanna Larsson, Elin Lindström and Anton Berglund) can be found in an old croft at Vivsta 180, Matfors.

I share this beautiful room with my boyfriend Jimmy and his brother Charlie.


Jimmy´s webpage: http://jimmylilja.com/

Charlies webpage: http://charliethepainter.com/

There is something special about this bull moose.

I´m not sure what it is. He is heavier than any skull I´ve ever painted, and there is something about his forehead that just floored me and left me sitting in the shed when I saw it. I don´t know if that strange shape made him an exceptionally handsome moose or just kind of weird looking, but either way it sure makes my heart skip a few beats.
He has naturally shed antlers (something I seldom stumble across among the skulls I find, most have had their antlers sawed-off by the hunters) and all his teeth are all in place.

I have painted him white, and next comes my favourite part – finding out his shapes and colors. I never know in advance how any skull will turn out. Sometimes I will sketch an idea on paper before I start, but I often find it easier to draw directly on the skull. The things you can draw on a flat surface is rarely transferable to the many shapes, nooks and crannies of a skull.
Anyhow, I´m madly in love with this one already and can´t wait to see what will become of him.

Jewelry

I have been getting requests for my jewelry aswell (the internet is such a lovely place nowadays! Never ever have I had this much fun checking my email in the mornings, you guys are the best!) so I thought I should show you some of it.
I´m exhibiting my skulls this weekend in a beautiful small croft together with a whole bunch of friends, and I will bring these knick-knacks there to. But if you can´t come to Sweden, which I’m guessing that most of you can´t, just send me an email if you´re interested – these ones will easily ship world-wide!

– Birch Bark Bracelet –
€42

 

The story behind it all, with pictures.

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You kind of want it to be about death, right? For me, its more about life. About all that´s not tied to the flesh, that´s not stuck in the bones. About soul, and spirit.

I see these skulls as a kind of.. space in between, an abandoned home. Somewhere where grand wildness has pulsed through, inside and all around. Where the blood has been warm and the fur soft. The bones has helped to lift and put someone in motion, they have given someone foothold, heft, weight. They have lived, drunk, eaten, run, loved. One is someones mother, someones father, someones young one.

My name is Hanna Hasse Bergström. I was born 1985 in a small community in northern Sweden. My childhood was a fairytale and I have two people to thank for that, my heroes and idols – mom and dad.

My father was like a chieftain, strong as a span of oxen and wise as a book. He is sat deep within me, like a strong stem and deep roots, as a presence and reminder of forces that can´t be seen with the naked eye. Everything I am, I am because of my father, secure, brave, and with hands that must be allowed to create or else they might just fall off. My mother was the one who put pencils and brushes in my hands and made sure that I always had four legged friends with their warm mules against my cheek. She let me grow up on my back in the grass with the horses, in the barn among sheep and feathered friends, along a small road with a pig on a leash, with big dogs by my side, cats under my quilt, by the foot of a mountain with the woods around the corner of our house.

It´s not all that strange that I feel lost on the concrete, and maybe not even that my best friend have hooves and that one of my children crows. That´s just how it goes.

Animals and nature have always been my source of power. I´m never alone in the woods, and nowhere else can I find inspiration like I can with my nose buried deep in the moss or my back safe against the trunk of a tree. It was only by coincidence that I started painting skulls, and yet somehow it was perfectly in line with everything else. Growing up the way I did, with animals by my side, makes death a very natural och obvious part of life. Horses get sick, dogs get old, roosters get taken by the fox, birds crash into windows, the pigs and turkeys are slaughtered and eaten, and mom and dad spends the autumn in the woods waiting for a moose to shoot.
When I was young they used to bring me when the hunting-team slaughtered the moose they had shot, and I got to watch as the big animals transformed from mysterious wise-eyed creatures to a big moose-shaped blob in the moss, and watch it go through the hunters hands and knifes and become food for humans. It has always troubled me.

A few years ago I stumbled across an old slaughter-pit in the woods and my heart stopped.

It was a horrible sight, but I couldn´t help but become enchanted by the skulls I saw. I didn’t know what to do, would it be wrong for me to take them home with me, would it be worse for me to leave them? I carried a few of them home with me, painted one of them and suddenly a new tranquillity came over me. I couldn´t wake him up, but I could honor his memory, rest his bones, and since then I have lifted so many moose and other animals from that and other pits that I´ve lost count. The skulls have become a part of me, a flock for me to belong.

Through my art I hope to be able to lift these animals higher than just out of the pit they were left in. It´s so casually done, to shoot someone, that you can go home afterwards and eat dinner and watch tv just as if everything was in order. And that tears me apart.

The skulls are really no more animal than a rock is an animal, and yet it is sometimes hard for me to breathe while I touch them. The skulls are merely a shadow of the life that once ran through them but it softens me, it´s humbling to stroke your fingertips along the only thing left of them for us to stroke our fingertips along.

I don´t know where a moose or a fox or a crow goes when they die, just as I don´t know where I will go when I´m done here, or where my father went when he died. All i can do is hope and trust that they are well wherever they might have flown, and that I´m able to do them some kind of justice.

It´s only love.

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