The 24-year-old Arvida Byström’s art looks like a lot of pastel and glitter, often translated to the phrase “ über femme,” and proclaimed as youthful and vain. Bringing the audience face-to-face to challenge these stigmas of femininity is exactly what the Stockholm-born, Echo Park-residing artist’s work achieves, combining art and activism in one non-derogatorily cute referenced swoop.
Although an early career as a photographer and model catapulted her into teen cyber fame at the age of 16, Byström’s not attached to one medium. Her fluidity between film, music and photography allows her to further explore the dichotomy of sexuality, gender codes and body image between society and oneself. She’s using the internet as a platform to talk to us about how the web plays into our daily lives.
Where most are hesitant to share their reality—which often includes the “ haven’t shaved in a week” guilt-ridden thought bubble—Byström questions why both men and women recoil instead of accept ourselves in photo series likes “ There Will Be Blood,” featuring women bleeding through their clothing, and “Boys Will Be Boys,” showing men doing traditionally feminine things like applying makeup or shaving their legs.
Byström utilizes imagery as opposed to being labeled a photographer. She is a feminist, but not just because she is a female artist. She’s sensual, not just sexual. She uses the color pink more often than not, and is a mature woman. Where most see a two-option check box, she is taking the survey and choosing “N/A.” And yet, she’s not shielded from the spiraling existential crisis of relativity either.
“I tell myself everyday that I should stop because being an artist is so selfish,” she says.“I’m just the type of person that sees all sides of something I’m doing and have a difficult time feeling fulfilled. Even if you touch subjects that are relevant, it still feeds back to your fame and your ego.”
The growing popularity of Byström’s work doesn’t mean it’s always pretty in pink. Like anyone who has to use Instagram to get a paycheck, the ability to enjoy a social network can fade. “ Technology is life,” she says. “ I get sick of it just like I get sick of laundry.”
The internet, while it has produced a whole host of issues regarding self-perception, narcissism and the like, still serves as a window of connection. Byström may not be immune to such issues, but her willingness to face them head on and comment about how they affect her work is admirable and uncommon in her medium. For Byström the color scheme, body hair and oddities she uses that invoke reaction are not just made for personal politics. The real people she connects with through the digital medium where she has taken up residency are her driving force to continue.
“When actual people get in touch with me to say they feel better or less scared because of something I’ve done, that makes me want to keep going.”