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Chuck Olson: Visual Histories

October 12, 2007 - February 10, 2008


The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto is exhibiting Chuck Olson: Visual Histories. Featured are more than 100 paintings by Olson, an Indiana County native and Fine Arts Department Chairman and Associate Professor of Art at Saint Francis University for more than 30 years. The exhibition is on view October 12, 2007 through February 10, 2008. (right: Chuck Olson (American, b. 1953), Landscape: Lorraine, 2005, Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 inches)

Visual Histories serves as a retrospective of the artist's career, with some works dating back more than 15 years. A significant portion of the exhibition, however, chronicles a new direction in Olson's repertoire. Fascinated with history, Olson has long-explored the use of both artifacts and landscapes to provide the subjects for his work. But he began a new direction in June of 2006 when he spent the summer in Parma, Italy, to direct a summer arts program. While there, he visited monastic libraries that contained large 16th and 17th century map frescos of the Italian peninsula, the Holy Land, Asia Minor and Europe. "I was immediately struck by how these 'maps' addressed the curiosity, ambition, and identity of the Renaissance/Baroque mind," said Olson. "Arguably abstract, they held a sense of realism upon which countless dreams and perceptions were based. The idea of developing a visual exchange between non-objective painting and the presumed realism inherent in any map fueled my thinking for a new, related series of work."

The project began as Olson would cut apart French road maps and, through the use of collage techniques, reorganize them into small, fictive maps as a surface on which to paint. Soon, Olson was branching out and using maps from various periods in history, such as the Middle Ages, the French and Indian War, the American Civil War, 19th century European cities, and non-Western (Aztec, Japanese, Chinese and Indian), among others. This new direction was fueled by Olson's philosophy that every individual carries within themselves a unique map, one tailored by their own personal experiences.

Olson, who was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania, credits the region for, in part, inspiring his artistic endeavors and direction, although his influences certainly extend beyond. The American Abstract Expressionist movement and a keen interest in history also have propelled his career. "My painting has long been a response to my fascination with history as it is wedded to its artifacts and to the landscape upon which events have played themselves out," he said. "Both the object/artifact and landscape have been explored over the last 20 years as subjects for my work."

Olson has exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the United States, Europe and Japan. He received a B.A. in art education and an M.A. in painting from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and later furthered his studies at the Tyler School of Arts at Temple University. He is represented by galleries in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, France and Italy, and was listed in the Who's Who in American Art for 1999-2000 and 2004-05. He also was the recipient of Pittsburgh Magazine and WQED-TV's Harry Schwalb Award of Excellence in Visual Arts for 2001-02. His works are included in private, corporate, museum and university collections across the world, including SAMA, the Carnegie Institute and Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Osaka Museum of Modern Art in Japan, and Galerie Lillebonne in Nancy, France.

Please click here to view the exhibition brochure, which contains an artist statement, images and a checklist.


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