Curtis Olson’s mixed media artwork recalls quiet vistas of the American west. In his interpretations of landscapes, textural planes of color hint at fields, horizons, and skies, or are broken into soothing geometries. He frequently incorporates his own stark photography, which points away from traditional “post card” imagery, and looks instead toward the simple silos, gates, and barns that reflect the particular vernacular of the area where he shoots each image. In his photography Olson captures the final holdouts of the rapidly disappearing old west. The work frequently incorporates wood or patinaed metal, the metal riveted and rustic and looking as if it has perhaps just been pulled from the structures featured in Olson’s photography. The resulting abstracted landscapes create a distinct feeling of place– with the colors, textures, and photography working to create contemporary work that retains a memory of the past.
Curtis Olson is an artist and co-owner of J GO Gallery. In other incarnations he has worked as a writer, a designer, and an award winning architect whose wide-ranging projects span 7 countries and combine cutting-edge design with environmentally sensitive planning and materials. His art is shown nationally and internationally and is held in the permanent collections of the Museums of Santa Barbara, Nicolaysen, and The State of Wyoming as well as many corporate collections. He was awarded the individual Artist Fellowship by the Wyoming Arts Council.
Olson received an Architecture degree from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He has studied graphic design and fine arts at the University of Maryland, College Park and at the University of California, Berkeley.
As a young man Curtis was captivated by the loneliness and the vastness of the land and its indigenous and pioneer structures. His artwork is a reflection of his interest in the land and buildings of the isolated splendor of the western landscape. He frequently incorporates simple black and white images of objects in the land to evoke a quiet memory and the essence of the landscape depicted. The landscape also determines the color field, metals and objects incorporated in each piece. His works are a personal exploration of the Japanese concept of “Wabi-Sabi” which relates to the beauty of natural processes, impermanence, rustic imperfection, and earthy unpretentiousness.
Process and Media
For his foundation Olson constructs a wood panel. Next applying thick layers of a special colored cement-plaster mix, and frequently embedding wood or metal– which has been patinaed over the course of a couple of years in the “metal garden” outside his studio– he build the structure and composition of the piece. One of his images or photographs of the western landscape may be incorporated at this point. To achieve the right texture, Olson then sands the piece. Finally he’ll apply layers of paints, dyes, inks and waxes, then remove and re-apply them; reworking until he achieves the right balance of elements for the piece.
In my compositions I am using a classic proportioning system found in nature and classic architecture – known as the golden section or golden ratio. This system is ingrained in me through my years as an architect. These pieces represents my continued explorations of the these questions:
How is abstraction and realism used most effectively, separately and together, to evoke a feeling or sense of place?