“How do I look?”
Raised amidst Connecticut’s sterile suburbs, Michael Sjostedt spent his childhood steeped in the pop culture of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, finding in them both salvation and estrangement. That dichotomy forms the basis of his art, as he considers how he simultaneously fits and does not fit into the media of his youth—then and now.
Since 2011, he has explored renegade subcultures from the mid century to the 1980s, with collage as his preferred medium. Each piece works to uncover the internal rules and modalities that create community within subcultures—but also wall it off from those outside its perimeters and parameters. As Sjostedt winds his way through the visual codes inherent to his subject matter, he’s guided by the question, “Where am I in all this?”
Sjostedt first discovered the power of collage while assembling a mood board for an unrealized painting project. Ten years later, he has crafted more than a dozen collage series, including Slam—an inquiry into wrestling culture—and Alteration—a consideration of self-expression through fashion. His work challenges the perception of collage as a gateway medium, merging the intentionality of curation with the unexpected reveals of an aleatory composition process.
For Sjostedt, the most fitting materials for an exploration of popular culture already exist—and it’s incumbent upon the maker to repurpose familiar imagery, unlocking fresh perspectives in highly trafficked subcultures. From hyperreal print ads that promise consumers an ultimately inaccessible experience, to the spectacle of niche magazines promoting a lux lifestyle subscribers can only read about (we’re looking at you, Yachting), Sjostedt both celebrates and deconstructs the worlds of fashion, surf, wrestling, and motorhead culture … to name a few.
Sjostedt’s work has been displayed in galleries and shows throughout New England, where he lives, works, and reads pulp fiction.