Linda Bäckström

Like a mirage, the elegant car floats in the air of the blast furnace hall. The paint on the car shines, as does the slag stone throughout the smelting house. Today, the steel in car bodies comes from more modern blast furnaces than those in the old Avesta ironworks. Nevertheless, there is a connection between how iron and steel products were made and used then and now. Inside the furnace, where iron previously flowed in white-hot streams, burns a campfire. As long as humans have been humans, we have lit fires for warmth and to make food. It is where the traveller finds peace. Just as someone in a car, rolling through the wide-open countryside, might pause by a meadow, green or browned from the sun. Inside the blast furnace hall we encounter the American dream. A chopper! The high handlebars and the elongated fork holding the wheel immediately make you think of vast, never-ending fields, fluffy clouds against clear blue skies, and remote mountains on the horizon. But here the motorcycle’s seat is a horse saddle. Two different kinds of horsepower in one. Both symbolizing freedom. The artwork is called Saddle Tramp. Next to it is the glittering work called Jewels. The sign stirs your imagination further, to jewellery, to rhinestone clothing, to cars that become gems, to a vision of freedom without borders. With fascination, Linda Bäckström explores symbols of American culture. In her world of images, we encounter familiar expressions in new miens. What at first glance we seem to recognize turns out to be warped, playfully distorted and non-functional. “In the American dream, everything is possible,” she says. “Everyone who really wants to make it can. Everyone who tries can succeed. At the same time, there is so much loneliness. The lonely cowboy with his herd. The lone motorcyclist on the road. The images from popular culture are charming and romantic.” The reality is that the US is a multifaceted country, a melting pot of many cultures that should unite around its basic values. Linda Bäckström’s works are neither a tribute nor a commentary on the ideal. Her artistic approach adds a dimension – a softness in the form that interferes with and opposes the objects that are depicted. The work is done in several steps. She designs and sews textile shapes that are then filled with expanding spray foam that hardens. The fabric is removed but it leaves an imprint of its shape inside the cloth mould. For some works, she chooses to use the spray foam sculpture as a model for an aluminium cast. All of her works are unique. Linda Bäckström’s exhibition at Avesta Art also includes weapons, formed in aluminium and painted with a metallic glitter lacquer. The cloth moulds are constructed according to actual models of weapons, but here, the rifles and machine guns are no longer functional. They are merely reminders of the power symbols they represent. On the wall, the work Nova Racing heightens and heralds – like a coat of arms or a grandstand display by football fans. Linda Bäckström is driven by a desire to understand the fascination with American culture. Her works are subtle and intriguing, not lecturing. With a twinkle in her eye, she creates works that provoke analysis and discussion. The viewer is invited to further reflection: Who are the people who use the objects shown here? What role do women have? Where is the story of all the cowboys who came from Mexico or had African origins? What happens on the big ranches today – will the younger generation take over? How will the big American cars handle the transition to a fossil-free society? Linda Bäckström was born in 1982 in Bomhus, Sweden. She now lives in Stockholm, where she is represented by the Wetterling Gallery.