Christina Pettersson is a Florida-based (Stockholm-born) artist who draws on mythology and classic literature in the creation of large-scale graphite works that depict scenes of tragedy, savagery, and beauty. With realistic shading and elaborate textures, the images have a narrative-rich and highly expressive style that is reminiscent of historical paintings. Fascinated by the role such ancient, emotional, and metaphorical stories have on contemporary culture, Pettersson writes:
“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” (Source).
Central to Pettersson’s illustrations are references to classical female figures, including the huntress/protector Artemis and Shakespeare’s Ophelia. Most of the images are dark in their imagery and/or atmosphere: Artemis, holding her bow, confronts the viewer with a fatally impassive expression; Ophelia, still awake, sinks into an oceanic abyss; while other women, unnamed, lie slain and bloodied. What Pettersson seems to be exploring (and critiquing) is the female body-as-sacrifice in such mythological traditions. These women — whose deaths are often treated as incidental plot-devices or metaphors in otherwise male-centered narratives — are given representation that mourns the tragedy of their deaths, and in many cases, signifies a liberating rebirth. Desdemona, for example, murdered in her bed, lies beside her peacefully-sleeping resurrected self; Ophelia, submerged in water, remains conscious while a ship — a symbolic “lifeboat” — turns her way. In a beautiful poem accompanying the latter image, Pettersson explains how she seeks to reclaim Ophelia from Shakespeare’s lethal sentence:
We are accustomed to your cruel pen,
the way it marks a creature for death, death only,
but this is too much.
I am taking it back,
taking it all back. (Source)