Nº113 DamselfrauHelga Mjöll Oddsdóttir
We mentioned her in our 10 Nordic Women Artists To Follow article, but here is more information on London-based Norwegian artist Magnhild Kennedy, better known as Damselfrau. She was born in Trondheim, Norway, in 1978. Her parents are both creatives. Her father, Stein Rønning, is a sculptor, and her mother, Heidi Kennedy Skjerve, creates experimental textile work. Growing up in this environment, she became a self-taught artist who mostly makes masks that may be worn as art. She maintains that she has never taken any classes related to design or mask-making. She thinks about her upbringing in a home where both of her parents were artists and her education. She has no professional experience in crafts or textile work; instead, she has learned these talents over time through observing people’s clothing and crafts, making mistakes, and watching YouTube videos.
In 2007, when she and her husband Robert Kennedy relocated to London, she solely manufactured masks for herself and their spouses to wear as accessories for parties. However, starting in 2009, she started working as a professional mask maker under the moniker Damselfrau. Damselfrau is made up of the words “Damsel” (unmarried woman) in English and “Frau” in German (woman). This innately paradoxical nickname, according to Kennedy, means “married to oneself.” It is an appropriate mantle for an artist who has become renowned for her masks; a vessel that entails placing another “person” on top of your own.
Her work bridges the boundaries between art, fashion, and costume design. It is distinctive in terms of sensibility and aesthetics because it can be regarded as both baroque and post-apocalyptic at the same time. Her masks invoke a wide range of allusions, ranging from transcultural folklore to sci-fi iconography, and neither adhere to any one particular style or genre. However, they are inspired by such influences. Kennedy claims that these masks are not actually masks but characters that she gets to inhabit each time she is photographed wearing them.
Her masks are featured on art and fashion websites and publications like Vanity Fair, Another Man, and Vogue in addition to Instagram, which has served as her primary venue for showcasing her artwork. They are also often displayed in solo and group exhibitions.