Oda Iselin Sønderland’s Figure Skaters

Originally printed in Issue 20
Text by Claire Milbrath

Culturally, we’re drawn to archetypes of female competition, immortalizing tales of alpha-femme ambition. In 1994, Tonya Harding’s idiotic henchman broke the legs of her rival before the National Championship. The same year, Olympic figure skater Surya Bonaly, known for her illegal and dangerous backflip-on-ice, famously removed her silver medal while on the podium, tossing it aside in anger at not winning first place. In 2019, the calf of South Korean figure-skater Lim Eun-soo was slashed by the skate blade of 22-year-old competitor Mariah Bell. Who’s next?

Norwegian artist Oda Iselin Sønderland’s watercolour paintings are vignettes, torn-out pages of a comic about a girl on the run. Suspenseful, 1980s, and often athletic, Oda’s imaginary world feels like Nancy Kerrigan’s revenge story. Dripping in sweat, seemingly high on Adderall, the artist’s hand-painted girls evoke a desperate, animalistic sense of determination. Oda’s girls are winners.