Duluth artist Carolyn Olson (previously on PDD) was featured in a segment on the PBS News Hour covering artists responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Creative Moment” segment includes Olson discussing her series of pastel drawings of essential workers. The segment starts at the 47:20 mark of the video. Olson appears at the 51:05 mark.
Carolyn Olson(featured previously in Selective Focus) has been redirecting her work a bit. Still focused on everyday scenes, she has been making drawings in a series she’s calling Essential Workers. These scenes are in grocery stores, public transit, street scenes and in medical facilities. This week, Carolyn talks about honoring these people who keep things going in unprecedented circumstances.
CO: Having recently retired from teaching school this year began differently anyway. I began last summer creating projects – challenges I called them – for myself, such as creating a series of images that tell a story, in hopes of illustrating books. When the “Stay at Home” order came I was accustomed to staying home and working in the studio regularly. Talking with our adult kids in the Cities brought home the realities facing the essential workers.
Carolyn Olson takes extremely ordinary daily events and turns them into big, colorful studies of life and relationships.
C.O.: I am primarily a narrative painter working in either gouache, water-based oil paint or pastel. I have also experimented a bit with sculptural figures made out of plywood or iron.
Self-portrait called “Halloween Costume.” Oil on board 36″ x 48″
My subject matter has always been based in my daily life – family/friends, observations of others – often strangers. I’m from Duluth originally and moved to the Cities after high school to study painting and graphic design. From there I moved to Mississippi where I worked as a graphic designer for a non-profit organization dedicated to social reform. Being one of the few white folks in our neighborhood I spent a lot of time observing, listening, and re-examining my place and work. My drawings and paintings at that time were my way of trying to understand the people and the place where I was living. Being from the north and white – it was a cultural education. My paintings were universal stories such as a mother’s love for her family, children playing – poverty and race became a part of my subject matter.