Free spirits in Bellair

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EuroFloridian has met with Rebecca Weiss, a Swedish artist and author who since 1994 has lived in Bellair with her husband and two cats. Rebecca is the daughter of the well renowned Swedish artist Helga Henschen and German-Swedish author Peter Weiss.  Helga Henschen died in 2002, the same year Rebecca started to write her autobiography, “Journeys in Darkness and Light”.

In Rebecca’s beautiful and light Florida home her mother’s spirit is almost tangible. The artwork of Helga Henschen is displayed so that you get the feeling that she is present all the time. Without having met this remarkable woman, one gets the impression of a warm, caring person with a lot of free flowing positive energy.  

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Sun figurine by Helga Henschen     Courtesy Rebecca Weiss

She is, like her mother, a well renowned artist with more than 30 exhibitions since 1970 and has received several major grants and scholarships in Sweden.

On display in her Florida home, Rebecca has some of her artwork as well. Two textile applications that illustrate her belief that we are all free spirits in physical bodies and that after death of our physical bodies, our spirits will live on in another body.

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Applications by Rebecca Weiss   Courtesy Rebecca Weiss

In 1988 Rebecca met her husband, Stu Sjouwerman a computer software entrepreneur from the Netherlands. Stu’s work brought the couple to Paris where they lived until 1994. One might think that it would be a dream comes true for an artist to live in Paris. Rebecca though found life hard in Paris, the mentality of the French are not as beautiful as their capitol.

In 1994 the couple got an opportunity to move to the USA to establish a software business here, they knew they wanted to live in the sun. They picked Florida as the east coast is closer to Europe travel- and time wise.

Once Rebecca had moved to Florida she find out that she was not the first in her family to move here. Her great grandfather’s brother, Josef Henschen came to Florida in 1871.  

 Rebecca found the art community of St Petersburg to be open, interested and friendly, a welcome change to the snobbery of the French.

Even though Florida cannot compare itself to the US art centers, New York and Los Angeles, there are talented artists to be found here as well.  In Aripeka lives the world renowned pop artist James Rosenquist.   James Rosenquist is of Swedish descent.

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Ingrid Vang Nyman                   Courtesy Rebecca Weiss

An interesting part of Rebecca’s art collection is the works of Ingrid Vang Nyman, the Danish artist who made the original Pippi Langstrump illustrations in 1945. Ingrid Vang Nyman was a friend of Helga Henschen’s and gave her some beautiful artworks of children from different parts of the world. Her style is unmistaken and she really depicts children like responsible human beings performing adult tasks with the same self confidence as Pippi Langstrump.

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Ingrid Vang Nyman                      Courtesy Rebecca Weiss

Rebecca obviously grew up in a vibrant artistic home, surrounded by many of the great artists of the 60’s and 70’s. Today Rebecca is following the Swedish art scene from afar, by reading art publications and magazines. Her overall impression of current Swedish art is that it has become brutal and sexualized.

Current artists that Rebecca finds being of world class though are the Swedes Jacobe Westerlund, Linda Gustavsson and Maria Hillfon,  Miguel Arguello from Spain is another favourite, he passed away a few years ago. Gottfried Helnwein from Austria is another of the artist that Rebecca is ranking as a world class artist.

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Miguel Arguello                 Courtesy Rebecca Weiss

The last question to Rebecca before we are reluctantly to leaving the tranquil and inspiring Swedish art haven in Clearwater is what she likes about the USA that she cannot find anywhere else.

The constitution Rebecca says without hesitation. The American constitution is the best written constitution in the world.  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the favorite part of the constitution.  A sentence many Swedes living in Florida will agree with, the fundamentals of Man’s liberty against Government-Over-Man, according to each individuals own goals and aspirations and that inner or spiritual unity, is possible only among the free in spirit, among genuinely free men.

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Helga Henschen                          Courtesy Rebecca Weiss

If you are interested in the publications of Rebecca Weiss, you can buy her books here


1 - Dear Rebecca,
This was such a pleasure! Things I didn't know about your recent past; the stunning art work by your mother (which allows me to understand more deeply your beautiful creations); the sense of your commitment and conscious choice to be where you are, right now--all add up to a lovely "sketch"!
Do stay in touch

2 - I enjoyed this article and the pictures, both of your art, Rebecca, and of Helga's and of course that little Japanese girl by Ingrid Wang Nyman. I didn't know Helga and she were friends.
I understand you found Paris hard and snobbish. Well it's true in many ways. When I spent a spring semester at Sorbonne in the early sixties just after I'd graduated from school I often felt sad and lonely and longed for the letters from my mother - she wrote every week. But later in life when I returned as a journalist I've quite enjoyed Paris. It's something about the city itself, the athmosphere.

3 - I enjoyed this article very much as well as seeing the pictures and hearing some of the history of Recebba's life.Emoticon Emoticon

4 - It was so good to hear from you. Loved reading your comments . Sorry there wasn't more abour your fatherEmoticon Emoticon

5 - I noticed a litografi by Ingrid Vang Nyman at a online auction in sweden if intressted.

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