By Laure Brezard
Art can be inaccessible and hard to grasp; it can be elitist, and may at times make you feel uncomfortable –these characteristics are sometimes seen as inherently part of art. Many artists and movements have tried to break away from this very notion, trying to make their work accessible to broader audiences and to break the boundary between formal artistic institutions and ordinary life. Social media platforms like Instagram or Pinterest have made this easier, by facilitating the diffusion of art beyond the famous oeuvres usually restricted to museums. While I try and spend less time on my phone, I also love to scroll my Instagram feed looking for new artists to explore. One of my best recent discoveries, which always puts me in a good mood, is Camilla Engstrom’s account. Until recently, her Instagram bio read “paint and sometimes take silly dance breaks,” and to be completely honest, the latter part was the initial reason I started following her account. I’ve annoyed several of my friends by interrupting whatever they were doing to show them Camilla’s dance videos, which I clearly am not getting over anytime soon. Whether it be due to her groovy moves, her funky outfits or her seemingly permanent smile, they always make me happy - so I just had to share the warmth. Examples of her videos can be seen here and here.
Engstrom was born in Sweden, and after getting rejected from fashion schools in Europe she moved to New York to study there, eventually dropping out to pursue her art. She talks about these steps, initially tough due to parental expectations and a perception of needing to have a creative but still regular paycheck job, and about the resulting self-doubt that accompanied this transition, in a way that would inspire all the creatives out there to pursue their passion. The now LA-based painter’s practice also includes illustration, embroidery and sculpture, as well as collaborations with several brands (which she sees as less exciting but are necessary to the financial sustainability of her career). While the artist asserts her preference for paintings, due to her aspiration to experiment a diversity of practices and the unaffordability of paintings, she also produces products such as tote-bags, stickers and pins to make her absurd, original and colourful characters accessible to all. Her art is both innocent-looking and funny, and full of informal comments on gender, self-love and sex and body positivity.
Her nipple and dick books as well as her clit queen are perfect examples of her relaxed and humorous approach to sex and the body. Camilla also mentioned in several interviews her special interest on the body stemming both from her desire to work towards resisting the sexual objectification of the female body, and to promote confidence and self-love.
She explains how her experience in the fashion world, drawing exclusively “skinny and grumpy” figures, led her to create her main character, Husa, a soft and plump pink naked lady who has her own account dedicated to delivering “one sunny message a day” (although sadly, her posts are not actually that frequent). Engstrom describes Husa as her “alter ego/best friend”, as well as a form of diary to express her emotions and empower herself and others.
This wholesome and proud, gender-fluid character indeed seems to accurately reflect Camilla’s personality, as someone who values kindness, humour and positivity, loves nature and human stories, reclaims cuteness and sees self-doubt as something inevitable, which one needs to accept but eventually overcome. She describes time spent doing “nothing”, understood as moments spent hiking, working out, meditating, watching movies or spending time with loved ones and relaxing rather than working, as essential parts of her well-being, inspiration and work routine.