Christina Pettersson‘s black and white drawings portray a world where mystery still rules. Where the old gods and goddesses are alive and strong, without color she draws living, visceral pieces that draw you in, call to you, make you think of the world that might be, not see the world as it is. Her imagination runs deep and cannot be denied, nor resisted as it calls the viewer to dream with her. Check out her interview:
How long have you been an artist?
For as long as I can remember.
How did you decide on illustration as your medium of choice?
Drawing actually. An illustrator provides a visual that corresponds to the content of text or concept. I do not draw in conjunction with anything. I draw for myself only. When I went to school you couldn’t be a drawing major, so I chose painting. After years of frustration, of trying everything else, I finally quit the paint factory, and started simply drawing again. Poof! A miracle. I have never looked back. It is my primal medium, my unabashed truth teller.
Do you think the world is still wild?
You must have read my artist statement already (she says smiling). “I want to restore that epic and mythological dimension, a sense of awe and reverence for the world. The fact is they are not much about my personality. I want to be a storyteller. I want to believe that life is still wild.”
Is there wildness in you? Where do you go or what do you do to feel in touch with that part of yourself?
I am a wild thing. I feel most alive when not just my toes, but my knees and hair are muddy. I just spent a month as the artist-in-residence inside Everglades National Park, and it was glorious. I never wanted to come back. Day after day and night after night tramping humid, murky mosquito and gator infested trails and water, and I couldn’t be happier. Especially the night. Don’t get me wrong, I love the mornings, and as a birder this is the only time to catch the painted bunting and northern parula. But there are secrets in the dark. I don’t think it is possible to be truly wild unless you can stand alone in a great expanse of blackness and tingle with anticipation. Be unafraid even. I have a deep allegiance to the wilderness of a bygone era, and a longing for the unbounded and indefinable.
As children we have no problem believing in myth and miracle. Everything is wonderful and everything is new. Do you believe that feeling leaves us? Is it naïveté? Is it youth? Or is it some part of life that we purposefully eschew to be more like our seniors? More importantly, how do we get it back?
When we admit to our passion, we are free. We can have what we want, be who we want to be. I was a shy child, and though I may have had certain beliefs since lost, I lacked the wherewithal to drink the wine from water. I’m so much less weary of being different now you know? I want to taste everything. I’m certain that’s the key to wonderment.
What myths have you read, what stories inform your work? How do you think creation myths come about? Do you think humanity will eventually outgrow such beliefs? As Douglas Adams said: “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” Do we have to believe in something more than the wildness and miracle that is nature in order to marvel at the world?
As a student of art history, I was fed on religious paintings, on Greek and Roman mythology, endless vibrant, erotic depictions of bodies under a pastoral sky. Sex and violence is the bread and butter of history painting. It’s no surprise we long to know narrative sources I suppose. Even though I’ve not held onto my Catholic upbringing I still find the imagery utterly engaging. So although I understand what Douglas Adams meant, I can’t help but think he sounds rather dry. The way atheists always do. Artists may eschew organized religion, but we dabble in magic too readily to be merely pragmatic.
Tell us about Please Don’t Bury Me In Wood. That’s a pretty intense illustration, what is going on in it? What was going on in your life when you drew it? What emotion do you feel most when you look at the illustration?
Tell me about it! I hadn’t looked at it for a few years until it was recently in a show alongside a local hero of mine, Clyde Butcher. He is the Ansel Adams of the Everglades, a truly magnificent photographer who sowed his own beautiful path against the grain. He transformed a rough and ugly swamp everyone thought not worth saving into a glittering Oz. I don’t kid myself that my goals were so lofty, but I went down under the surface looking for more than worms. Mostly that drawing is a mystery to me though, and I’m glad. To know too much would be the death of me.
What are you working on now?
A performance for the centennial celebration of the National Park system. It will be a tribute to the history of plume hunting in South Florida, which almost wiped out the wading bird population here a hundred years ago. I am resurrecting the Furies, deities of vengeance, to slaughter the hunters. It is the first time the park is allowing performances, and it will be my first time creating a bloodbath beyond the walls of my drawings, so I’m excited.
What was the last thing that amazed you?
Alligators at night. I stood at a lake and shone my flashlight and dozens of bright orange eyes glowed around me. Totally thrilling.