26-year-old artist Arvida Byström’s aesthetically pleasing and intelligent art has made her one of the most talked about and free-thinking voices of our generation. Her self-portraits exploring issues of feminism, identity, gender and beauty ideals have been kicking up a social media storm with Instagram continually taking down her most provocative posts. But this doesn’t stop fashion heavy-weights such as H&M, Faith Connexion, Adidas and Gucci from commissioning work by Byström for their campaigns.
Born in Värmdö, Sweden, Arvida Byström used the Internet as a way to find a sense of belonging in subcultures outside of her hometown. Tumblr became a crucial platform for Byström on which she shared her photographic content and developed a unique style of her own. Today she is a member of The Ardorous, a female collective curated by photographer Petra Collins, and boasts collaborations with some of the biggest magazines and brands out there.
Other than producing pictures of herself online, Arvida Byström has art directed numerous fashion shoots and music videos. Her visual language is that of typically female-coded aesthetics, through which she breaks down barriers of gender politics and beauty ideals. She explores her own queer self-identity and the representation of the female form through sexualisation and desexualisation of her own body. Earlier this spring Byström’s campaign for Adidas went viral as she flaunted her hairy legs in the pictures. This seemed to cause quite a stir among various internet users because apparently, for some people, visible hair on a woman’s body is something worth being worked up about.
Byström has posted photos showing pubic hair, period blood stains and women’s nipples that have been taken off the ‘gram. When asked about these issues, Byström shares that it’s problematic when a commercial corporation is able to dictate the content on such a commonly used digital platform because it shapes our norms and affects how we view our bodies. As for her work being considered “feminist art”, in an interview with Dazed, she responds “you can’t just make ‘feminist art’ because feminism is more like a spectrum of things; it changes and depends on its context”. With this, it is clear that Byström is part of a new wave of feminism, a wave that nuances and advances the discussion of female representation through politically unsettling yet aesthetically pleasing art.