OF MONICA SJÖÖ
Picture above: Monica in her small study/bedroom on the amazingly painted 'throne' her son Sean made for her many years ago.
Monica wrote a brief autobiography (twenty-two A4 pages) at the beginning of 2004 when she felt that her health was deteriorating.
The breast cancer she suffered several years before, had returned and spread throughout the bones of her body. She needed a wheelchair and nursing care. You can read her own account of her life here
Further information about Monica's life can be gained through reading her personal commentary on each painting in the Art Gallery that was included in the 2004 Retrospective Exhibition.
From the catalogue of one of her Art Exhibitions:
Monica Sjöö is a radical anarcho/eco-feminist and Goddess artist, writer and thinker involved in Earth spirituality. Born in Sweden in 1938 she has lived mostly in Bristol since the late 1950's and has been active in the Women's Liberation Movement since the 60's. Her paintings are inspired by the veneration in ancient cultures of the Great Mother, the Earth. They have been exhibited throughout Europe and in America. Monica reflects her politics and spirituality not just in her art but also in her writing. She's author of the Great Cosmic Mother, Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth (with Barbara Mor) and "Return of the Dark/Light Mother, or New Age Armegeddon?" plus numerous articles in many papers and magazines. She is also an active speaker who has toured many countries exposing her anarcho-femnist philosophies in universities, conferences, festivals and camps. This ideology is also reflected in Monica's activism, she took part in many campaigns and causes.
As an artist her most famous work is "God giving birth" (1968) which has become a feminist icon. This painting depicts God as a Black woman and the human creation as a real birth (A revolutionary painting back in the 60's, for she was threatened several times with legal action on the grounds of "blasphemy").
Many of her paintings have also been used in books, covers and cards.
MY LIFE STORY
I was born on New Year's Eve 1938 in Härnösand, a small provincial city on the Baltic in north Sweden, where my maternal grandparents lived and my mother, Harriet Rosander, grew up. My grandfather was the Lord Mayor for life there. My parents were both artists, from different class backgrounds, and were traveling in the north of Sweden with a joint exhibition when my mother 'happened' to go into labour in her native city. She had never been to see a doctor during the pregnancy and suffered badly from deficiencies and from postnatal depression during which time my grandmother had to care for me. This was ironic since my grandparents had completely disapproved of the fact that my mother had 'married below her class' and they saw my father as a rough upstart.
My father, Gustav Sjöö, was from a poor peasant/working class background, the youngest of ten children. That he was able to train as an artist at all was a miracle and it was in the art school in Stockholm that my parents met. They went on to the Art Academy together and when they left from there they got married, much against my grandparents wishes.
For three years we lived in Växjö in the south of Sweden close to where my father's extended family lived in the countryside. My parents painted side by side, lived in a tiny place in an attic where there were no cooking facilities, bath or hot water. I remember the smell of turps and paint but not of cooking. I suffered from a lack of vitamins but half rotting oranges stored in our backyard saved me from scurvy. My parents were totally unpractical and my father basically didn't want me around.
My mother divorced him when I was three years old and we went back to live in Härnösand where my mother kept us both by painting portraits. I was however, the favourite subject of her art.
I loved the north with its great forests, rivers and thousands of lakes. I delighted in the winters with the crisp cold and the abundant snow, when we skied and skated and built snow houses. I loved the white nights around midsummer when it was light all night. All my best memories are of my childhood in the north and the summers up there on a farm where my grandparents were able to hire a cottage for us to live in.
When I was five I wanted to become a farmer and my first loves were cows, great gentle maternal beings who suffer badly and dogs, I milked the cows and helped with the haymaking. I thought I was a dog and had total telepathic communication with them.