When her children outgrew their dollhouse, photographer Eva Skold Westerlind appropriated the only object that survived unscathed—a boy dressed in old-fashioned breeches—and adopted him as her “alter ego.” She then made a pinhole camera and put the figurine through his paces in scenarios suffused with whimsical pathos and sometimes a touch of desolation, creating the performance persona of the “solitary traveler,” an everyman-child journeying through life. Westerlind’s existential odyssey is absurd in a most delightful and piquant way; Albert Camus’ deadly serious Sisyphus has nothing on Westerlind’s avatar pushing mightily against an enormous pear for no apparent purpose, and sleazy Jean-Paul Sartre is put to shame by the little boy peering with intense energy through a gaping keyhole. Most of all, Westerlind’s images are visual representations of Milan Kundera’s “incredible lightness of being,” as when the playful lad holds aloft a parasol and levitates with spritely grace. Westerlind’s figurine survived because her children rejected him as ugly; she shows us that beauty is never just skin deep. (Michael Weinstein)
Through June 15 at the Swedish American Museum Center, 5211 N. Clark.