Jennifer, you live in Sweden, can you tell us about being Latina and living in Sweden?
I was born here in Sweden. My father is from Argentina and my mother is Swedish, so I’ve basically grown up with two cultures. It’s been difficult at times but also a gift – there is power in being different, in having something “other” to relate to. For me, it’s been about being able to always see things from different perspectives, since I live with different perspectives, different cultures. I think many of us who grow up bi-cultural get to see things from different angles. And of course, as in the States there are many stereotypes about what a Latina is like, that you have to work against.
How did you become interested in the arts? What has that journey been like for you?
For me, it didn’t start as an interest; it was just something I did. And it turned into something that others would identify with me. I didn’t really reflect on it until my late teens when I discovered Frida Kahlo, who like me is Latina and European. The duality in her art was what made me start to reflect about my own work – what I do and why. It’s a constant journey for me.
What inspires you as an artist? Where do you find your inspiration for your paintings?
I mostly draw and paint women, and I think I started doing that to come to terms with being different. Being surrounded by tall, blonde amazons whilst being short, dark and curvy wasn’t always easy and people would notice me. As a teenager you don’t want that, but I couldn’t hide. So I think that’s why I started drawing these curvy Latinas, to boost my self esteem and find my own identity. But I’ve drawn a lot of strength from that, from being different.
I also often have religious themes in my work, not because I’m religious, but because I’ve grown up without a religion and it’s always fascinated me. It scares and seduces me at the same time, and I guess I’m going through some kind of spiritual process with and through my art.
What are your goals as an artist?
It’s difficult to identify a goal with my art, since it’s been such a natural process. But to grow, evolve, I guess. I’m autodidact, I never studied art or how to draw/paint – I just did it. Lately I’ve become more interested in the process, and I want to get better. But my main focus is to work with myself through my art.
How can the arts (painting, photography, performing arts) empower Latina women?
I have used it to accept the body that is so different from the Scandinavian. Growing up here, being both Swedish and Argentine, I’ve kind of had to make my own “national”, bi-cultural identity, and I believe that I’ve done that through my art. So much of what I do with my art is based on culture, so it’s like a silent therapy for me, and I believe it to be so for other artists as well.