MUNTHE ART MONDAY: SIF ITONIA WESTERBERG
Please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do
My name is Sif Itona Westerberg. I am a 36-year-old sculptor. I work with reliefs carved in aerated concrete. I get a lot of my inspiration from ancient Greek sculptures and the mythological fabric that make up our foundation.
In my work I focus on the human body in different stages of transformation and metamorphosis, I think it is a way for me to try to grasp a world that is constantly changing. I try to explore different aspects of the manmade climate change, that we are experiencing today. And how it affects us to be a part of an ecosystem that is rapidly changing, where the boundaries between human, nature and technology is becoming more and more vague. I think that I am trying to create a visual and intuitive language for some of the questions that are too large and complex to answer with words alone.
Could you explain more about how being a woman has affected your career?
I was raised feminist, and to see the challenges you meet as a woman from a collective perspective, and not as an individual problem. But we do live in a world where masculine properties are often valued more than feminine.
As a female artist I have had to set clear boundaries to men who were more powerful than me, I have had to find a way to not care if I ruin the mood by standing up for myself, and I have had to learn to say both yes and no, the same way a man would.
It has been important for me to insist on doing that, even when it feels unnatural or difficult. But for me it helps to think, that every time you break the norms for how you are supposed to behave as a woman, you sort of 'take one for the team'. And my own way into the art world is paved by women who has taken on the battle before me. And I think that we owe it to each other to keep on paving that road.
Can you name some other female (artist) that inspires you and explain why they do so?
The list is endless, but some of the female artist we have had here in Denmark, that inspire me, and whom we have only just recently begun to write into art-history is Anne Marie Carl Nielsen and Sonja Ferlov Mancoba.
What inspires me when I look at art, is if the work manages to be both aesthetically mold breaking and engaging, and at the same time grows out of explorations that are relevant to our way of seeing and understanding the world around us. I like it when a work is multi-layered and branches out in different directions, so that there is always something you want to come back and have a second look at. Fortunately, the field of artists that work like that is large and very strong, I would single out artists like Margueritte Humeau, Sandra Mujinga, Tiril Hasselknippe, og Camille Henrot, Jeanette Ehlers, Nina Bier, Nanna Abell, Lea Gulditte Hestelund, Tove Storch, Amalie Smith, Stine Deja and Sian Kristoffersen.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a female artist?
Even though there are a lot of structural challenges to being a female artist when it comes to sales, representation, salary, and maternity leave and so on, I think that for me it has been mostly about dealing with some of the more internalized problems that we face. Like not apologizing for taking up space or being too loud and feeling on a deeper level that it is okay to believe in yourself and the things you are able to manifest.
On a very personal level, I think that it has been challenging to choose a path for myself where I choose to work a lot, when I am also a mother.
We are so used to men choosing careers, and then finding a partner who stays at home with the kids. But I think it is still very stigmatized when women choose to work a lot. I know I have a lot of gifted female colleges who struggle to feel adequate, because you want to be the perfect parent, partner and still go full blaze on your career. It feels like none of the expectations can be lowered, and you have to constantly overdo it, on all fronts, and that is exhausting. I still think that there is a lot of guilt and shame to dedicating yourself to your work when you are a woman, and most artists have to be extremely dedicated to get anywhere at all. I think that women carry a heavier burden on that front, both when it comes to pressures that are internal and external, and I would love to see that change.
What would you like people to notice in your artwork?
I hope my work inspires immersion and contemplation. I try to create a physical setting that is enveloping and makes the audience want to stay with it a little longer. Time is the most valuable thing we can give each other today, and if I succeed in creating art that makes people want to spend just enough time with it, for the body and intuition to start working a bit, I feel like I have accomplished what I set out to do.
Each Monday we bring you a fresh interview with a selected female artist.
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