[lives & works – Philadelphia, PA ::: b. 1954]
For the last six years, PETER OLSON has harmonized photography and ceramics, two mediums that have forced their way into fine art. As bands of imagery spin around the thrown and assembled ceramic garnitures, there is a feeling that time is passing, history is revealing itself, a story is being told. There is mystery as the story itself is unclear. Olson is a trained professional photographer but when making art moonlights as a street photographer, informed by daily life and by cultural and religious objects. He is the field’s most inventive and inspired master of fired decals (a 17th-century innovation) infusing them with the passion for his subjects and magical, kinetic banding.
As a professional photographer, Peter Olson has traveled the world many times over. From corporate culture to religious iconography, he finds meaning in the repetition of human expression. His recent ceramic sculptures draw upon his deep experience with the camera, to reimagine captured imagery in a cylindrical form.
The images encasing each ceramic piece are left by ink from photographic prints that when fired, burn away leaving a permanent and detailed image from the iron oxide in the ink. Color tone is determined by time and temperature. These expertly collaged individual pieces give way to a fixed visual narrative, a kaleidoscope of imagery than spans centuries and continents. When joined this way, each motif contributes to a network of increasing complexity.
Accordingly, every image was captured by Olson himself, and each compilation is a testament to his eye, his interests, his documenting of his time on earth. His formal visual arts training in photography lends a refreshing take on what can be a traditional craft medium. The dimensions of individual pieces fall within a spectrum that changes with each series. Yet all are unique and do not adhere firmly to any framework but the artist’s own. Their vessel form serves more as an art historical reference to the ancient Greeks than it does a utilitarian purpose. Many contain visual surprises; a hidden leaf placed just so, a strange and nuanced combination of characters —more than enough to satisfy a curious eye.
The self-contained vessels result from meditations on visual experiences. These are cylindrical worlds where street photography coexists with images of classical sculpture in a celebration of the human form and our shared continuous history. Riddle-like in their delicate placement, each piece mimics the precarious layers of its two-dimensional content. The effect of images wrapping around each piece seamlessly calls upon the photographer’s eye as if their surface were the result of light reflecting images from a surrounding view. These forms are reflections of the world through the eyes of a seasoned photographer; and having been realized in three dimensions, they now take on a life of their own.
BFA Photography/ Film, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA
2020 Art in Doom, group show, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans, LA
2019 Cool Clay, permanent collection, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
Michael Warren Contemporary, Denver, CO
2018 The Image and the Vessel: A Survey of Contemporary Pottery, Lawrence Arts Center, KS
Peter’s Project, Santa Fe, NM
Fahrenheit 2018, American Museum of Ceramic Art, Los Angeles, CA
Object Lessons:Selections from the Permanent Collection, Fuller Craft Museum, MA
Lux Center for the Arts, Lincoln, NE
Fired, group show, Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, New York City, NY
2017 SOFA EXPO, The Reed Gallery, Chicago, IL
Zanesville Prize Winner’s Exhibition, Zanesville, OH
CeramATTACK II, Duane Reed Galler, St. Louis, MO
Cluj Ceramics Biennale, Romania
We the People, American Museum of Ceramic Art, Los Angeles, CA
Solo Show, American Museum of Ceramic Art, Los Angeles, CA
Dynamic Range, LUX Center for the Arts, Lincoln, NE
2016 Asher Gallery, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Houston, TX
A to Z, permanent collection, American Museum of Ceramic Art, Los Angeles, CA
Uncommon Exposures: Photography in Craft Based Media, Fuller Craft Museum, MA
2015 Memories and Mourning, The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA
Cluj Ceramics Biennale, Romania
The Crocker Museum, permanent collection, nine-piece garniture
American Museum of Ceramic Art, permanent collection, The LA Series
Fuller Craft Museum, permanent collection, a pair of vessels
The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, The Olson Collection