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ntary Turning
Buubo, 2007 The Scholar, 2006
Marty Nash, 2007 Elizabeth Erickson, 2005
The Queen of Pentacles, 2005


Learn about our other concurrent exhibit: Involuntary Turning

For Jim: Smiling Self-Portrait, 2003

Patricia Olson
The Buoyant Heart

I’m an image-maker, an image-concocter, an image-blender. For me, the Image is Queen. Psychologist James Hillman calls the image the “via regia” to the soul— the royal road of soul-making. I’m fascinated by how images resonate and how we “fine tune” them in our understanding. Put a sword in the hand of a woman in a red dress, for instance, and that sword resonates much differently than in the hand of guy wearing a suit of armor. My responsibility to the image, indeed my great pleasure and privilege, is to be open to other ways of knowing and understanding, while still being grounded in my particular place, in my specific time: a midwestern woman at mid-life in the middle of a continent.

The Buoyant Heart, 2001/2007

I see my work as part of a long over-due correction of art history to insert a woman’s point of view into a still predominantly male world. I’m not doing this alone – many other women and men are also working on this project of imagining women into the world as strong, engaged and active. When novelist Toni Morrison was asked why she writes the kind of books she does, she replied that those were the stories she wanted to read. So, like Morrison, I am painting the images I am longing to see. I seek to re-invent the past, re-image the present, re-vision the future.

Persephone and Demeter Project, The Graduates: Sonia, Laney, Andrea, Emily, 2004

Words are fine, as far as they go. The problem with words is that they cannot convey what I have in mind. What I have in mind is non-verbal and innovative. Only the image can serve this idea. The image is the insight. It does not illustrate a concept, nor does it reiterate an experience. The investigation resides in the image. And, for the viewer, looking at art is anything but passive. It’s active and requires our full attention, all synapses firing.

The bodies I paint are erotic, although not necessarily sexual. In her powerful essay, “Uses of the Erotic as Power,” poet Audre Lorde contends that restricting the erotic to sexuality alone is “tantamount to blinding a painter and the telling her to improve her work, and to enjoy the act of painting. It is not only next to impossible, it is also profoundly cruel.” For me, then, to tap into the erotic is to experience the connections with everyone and everything else in the world. I can connect things that I’ve been taught are inexorably opposite: mind and body, knowledge and experience, the spiritual and the political. Eros can heal these splits and release creativity. The physical act of painting images of other bodies creates a dynamic, yet balanced, eroticism.

Portrait Collection

Learn about our other concurrent exhibit: Involuntary Turning