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1325 Donors' Gallery • Current 

Mark Olson GreenYellowRedBlack
Green Yellow Red Black (Transformer) © 2019 Mark Olson, acrylic on canvas, porcelain insulators, 25" x 36". 


Mark Olson

October 11-November 2, 2019
Reception: October 11 • 5–8pm

Painting is transformation. The collecting and applying of various tools and compounds to create an image is perhaps the oldest human act of transformation, outside the human transformation of dance. As artists, we’re transformers in the business of transformation, you might say it’s our stock and trade. The painter scratches his marks or daubs his color knowing that the deep mystery of his work opens a portal between realms, and that, even if only for a moment, whoever truly sees is transformed. Doubtless some have always understood this better than others, as the caves at Chauvet and Lascaux reflect, as well as the likelihood that even back in those times there were probably famous painters. But as just dance transforms the dancer, so does painting transform the painter both during and after the act itself. This is a simple fact, the result of a path authentically pursued. It is not an easy path easily pursued though, nor could it be otherwise. Thus it was in the beginning, so it is today.

The Paradise Camp Fires of 2018 brought a new and darker material aspect to the word “transformer.” Aging power lines and infrastructure have transformed transformers into unpredictable and potentially deadly transformers of the landscape, capable of striking without warning nearly anywhere with raging fire, changing the world in horrific ways into something unknown as the climate itself is transforming into something unknown. 

Lost deep in the blazing soul forge of transformation and in the pain of its creation, barely knowing my own name, my literal eyes burning and my nose filled with the smell of the smoke of a burning world, the question arose “What will I do? What is on the other side of all this? How do I get there? How do we all get there?” Thus did the larger world find its unusual place in my creative investigations and struggle. Thus do painters also engage in dance, the dance of meaning.

I’m sorry, I don’t have an answer for all those questions I asked. They sure aren’t in my art and I didn’t really find it in my investigations, either. But still I’m grateful to share some notes and images from the forge, hoping that seeing opens that portal between realms for you, and even just for a moment that moment is transformed, and perhaps for a moment you are transformed as well. Now more than ever we are in a transformational moment, and we can transform to survive or choose not to survive.