Saturday, October 17, 2009

Featured Artist: Rose Olson


First of all, would you please introduce yourself to our readers that might not be familiar with you and your work?

My name is Rose Olson and I am a painter with a studio in Boston's South End. My studio is at 59 Wareham Street and I have been there for about 12 years. Originally from Boston, my home is now in Beverly, Massachusetts, so I haven't traveled far.

The above is an image of me last fall, being interviewed in front of my work at Higgins Art Gallery, Cape Cod Community College, in an exhibit titled "Calculated Color", which was curated by Jane Lincoln, also a painter and a printmaker. This image was taken by Joanne Mattera, a very fine painter, who is in this show, as well.

When and how did you become interested in art-making?

Montserrat College of Art, where I presently teach in the Foundation and Painting Departments, is also where I was officially "trained" as an artist. However, I can't ever remember not being interested in art-making and have always been particularly fascinated with color, especially the variety created by natural light. Many of my memories are connected with color first, which makes me think that I was keenly aware of it before I could even speak, but there is no way to really know this.

What type of job(s) have you had in the past?

Like many students/artists, I have worked at odd jobs, mostly selling, which I did not like. Being an insurance adjustor was fascinating but also somewhat sad because it concerned another person's loss, but most of my jobs have been teaching art. I started part-time, while still a student and continued teaching in several other schools including Salem State College, Radcliffe Seminars, DeCordova Museum School, until I became a full-time faculty member at Montserat College of Art.

Currently, what type of job(s) you do besides making art? Do you teach, write, and/or curate shows? If so, please give us some details.

Montserrat is an exciting place to teach. Classes are small, faculty and students interact well and there is an intense learning environment there. We teach what we do, so it becomes a sharing process, which is constantly charged with new energy, as we create new work. Presently, I am teaching and also doing some Mentoring, which I enjoy. Writing is tedious for me and is not one of my talents. I have never curated an entire exhibit but would like to do so, sometime soon. Making art is my biggest job.

What do you do for fun besides making art?

Fun is such an open-ended word that I could honestly say I have fun pulling weeds in my garden after 2 frustrating hours on my computer, because I love gardening, but I never have time for it. I do make time to visit the ocean two blocks from my house. I need to see it, walk it, smell it, everyday. It's always changing, it's always there and it restores my energy, as does music. I have a season ticket to the symphony, where I can hang over the second balcony and look down on the musicians as I hear them play. A weekend in New York, walking through the park, going to galleries and museums with any of my 3 sons is fun. Doing the most ordinary things with people I love is fun.

But one of the most special fun events for me is the monthly evening meeting with a group of 10 women, eight artists, an art historian and a curator, referred to as the 10 Webster Salon. This is the brainchild of two artists, Mia Nehme and Kathy Gerdon Archer who, after returning from a month of art-centered study, travel and conversation sponsored by Montserrat College of Art in Viterbo, Italy in 2001, decided to extend this opportunity and meet monthly. We meet from about 6 to 10:30 PM and the dialogue is intense, starting with a critique or discussion specific to one of us, followed by dinner and art-related conversation and ending with "The question". We have shown together 3 times and this group photo was taken this year at Kingston Gallery.

From L. to R: Leonie Bradbury, Masako Kamiya, Laura Tonelli, Rose Olson, Mia Nehme, Judith Brassard Brown, Diane Ayott, Caroline Bagenal; Kathy Gerdon Archer and Cathy Paige are in this exhibit but not in this image. Image courtesy of Rose Olson

Please tell us a bit about your work in general. What media do you work in? How would you describe your work to first time viewers?

In the past I have worked with oils, acrylics and collage on both canvas and wood. I have made many drawings using various forms of charcoal exclusively and many works on paper using collage and different mark-making mediums together in each work. Presently I am working in acrylics on wooden panels. I want these new liquid acrylic colors I am using to combine with the specific wood-grain of each panel to create something as unique as a thumbprint.

"Ju Ju Summer 4G", 2009, acrylic on Baltic birch veneer, 12 x 12 x 3"
Photo credit: Clements/Howcroft Photography

What are the thoughts and inspirations behind your recent paintings you referred them as "Sleepers" ?

The "Sleepers" were a series of paintings I was doing when my website was originally created several years ago. They may be seen on my website under "HOME" and "STATEMENT". Some are still available.

"Softly Moving Cirrus", 2002, acrylic on paper, triptych 41.5 x 26.5" each
Photo credit: Clements/Howcroft Photography

"Blue Cirrus", 2004, acrylic on maple veneer, 48 x 30"
Photo credit: Clements/Howcroft Photography

These were inspired by looking at the continually changing atmosphere, or skies in particular. These paintings were called sleepers because they were soft, quiet works until the light source changed and then they would come to life. I wanted to create work with subtle changes in the color in order to intensify a sense of light and open space. The layers were many but limited in chroma and painted with a matte finish so that the wood-grain was only somewhat evident, I needed the calm that enveloped me when I painted in only vertical and horizontal brush strokes. It was a softer, quieter dialogue of shifting color, shifting space.

The descriptions of the "sleepers" continues to be true in my present work, except that the chroma has changed to a more vibrant palette and the wood grain is more evident. I am now using new transparent colors which I extend with acrylic glossy mediums. These produce clear veils of pure color which visually mix as I apply one hue over another, until the final luminosity is achieved. Here are a few examples:

"New Orange" 2008, acrylic on birch veneer, 42 x 30 x 2"
Photo credit: Clements/Howcroft Photography

Kingston Gallery Installation "Just Color No Curves", October 2008
Photo by Joanne Mattera

Here comes the frequently asked question - How long does it take to make one painting (please give us an example)?

I have never clocked the time devoted to each painting because I work on various aspects of several paintings at a time. I would say that it takes a few days, a few weeks and even a year to make a painting because of my method of working and the time factors involved in using the materials. This does not include the time it takes to sketch ideas on the variety of structures and colors which would best suit each wood-grain effect to produce an exciting painting. The endless color possibilities are sketched on paper and pieces of wood and even when an idea has been established, the effect of color in the layering process continually surprises me and causes me to change my plan and consider a new development. So, it is really impossible to give you a true answer but I can tell you generally what my process is.

The first thing I must do is seal all the surfaces of the wood with 3 layers of Golden GAC 100, lightly sanded in between. This prevents the impurities in the wood from migrating into the painted surface and keeps the wood from warping. Acrylics do not dry quickly and get tacky if they are rushed. The weather also affects the paint. Most of my paintings require many individual layers of color to create the luminous quality which I require, so I am always working on several paintings at a time. As the work grows closer to completion, each step requires greater consideration and takes longer to conclude. I have 2 paintings measuring 30 x 30 x 3" which were started at the same time but were finished a year apart.

What is the most interesting comment about your work you have heard from a viewer?

"...what I find so interesting is that you can work with colors of such intensity and colors that seemingly should be at odds with one another, but you are able to do it in such a way that is comforting and contemplative..."

Are you currently showing your work? If yes, when/where?

I am presently exhibiting at Susan Maasch Fine Art, 567 congress Street, Portland, Maine and the exhibit continues until October 31,2009. The exhibit was recently reviewed by Daniel Kany in the Portland Press Herald. For anyone who is interested in reading the review, please follow this link:

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope to have a larger studio space at home, in order to make larger paintings and hope to find more galleries willing to sell them. But in the meantime, I have several things already scheduled for next year. For the month of December 2010, I am scheduled to exhibit in the large and center spaces of Kingston Gallery in Boston and hope to have a catalogue printed for this exhibit. For December 2010 and January of 2011, I am scheduled to exhibit at the Gallery Della-Piana in Wenham, Massachusetts with 3 people whose work I admire. Other exhibits are in the works.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Graduating students are full of hope and vitality, but they can also be easily discouraged by all the details of survival. It is very important for a young artist to immediately set-up a studio area, so that the momentum gained in a school, or other sheltered situation, does not slow down and disappear. But if it does, just start again at any speed.

Are you available for commissioned works? Representing gallery if any?

I am represented by:

Susan Maasch Fine Art, Portland, Maine
Kingston Gallery, Boston
GEOFORM On-line gallery

Would you provide links to articles and reviews about your work?

I would like to answer your last questions by saying that I cannot provide direct links to articles and reviews about my work but there is a section of my website which includes "SELECTED CRITICAL OVERVIEW".

Joanne Mattera has been kind enough to mention my work more than once. Just go to and list my name spelled correctly on search.

Marcia Wood includes me in an on-line catalog