Olshan’s work depicts the byproducts of ambition. Her sculptural paintings present the objective of pursuit, utilizing a distinct visual vocabulary to refer to an unattainable place: namely, architectural references such as staircases, the color blue, and recycled art materials such as paint scraps.
Drawing upon architecture’s symbolic connotations, her work utilizes staircases in particular to orient the viewer spatially. Often disjoined and incongruous, these staircases would be impossible to climb. Yet they invite climbing anyway, directing the viewer skywards towards an elusive place.
Reminiscent of skyscapes, waterscapes, and the horizon at a distance, blue is “the color of longing for the distances you never arrive in,” as art historian Rebecca Solnit wrote. Just as the bluespace ceases to be blue upon arrival, to perpetually pursue is to immediately replace one goal with another upon its accomplishment.
As part of her practice, Olshan also collects and repurposes leftover materials from the art-making process. This “artistic waste” includes items like dried oil paint, pencil shavings, and used masking tape. Unlike more traditional artistic mediums, artistic waste cannot be purchased or manufactured; it must be generated from past creation. These materials serve as artifacts of the creative process, telling the visual story of the artists’ pursuit.
Olshan’s most recent work similarly addresses the process of seeking, but deemphasizes the role of an idyllic place. Raw and less conventionally pretty, these works expose unprimed wood, employing color minimally and strategically. By reconceiving previous compositions, this series tells the arduous story behind each aggrandized space. This practice of repurposing elements from previous paintings is a trend in her work—a way of conceiving every hypothetical landscape she creates as one connected, theoretical space.
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