Sondra Olson

I am drawn to the natural, subdued and sometimes darker colors of the earth. There is something quite lovely and joyous for me, making visible the slightest undertones of light, revealing nature’s mood and mystery. I have found that to truly know the light, one must take it into the dark to see what is revealed. I am haunted by the changing shifts of mood I discover painting in the shadows where identity is blurred at the edges of light. For me, the painting process mirrors life itself, a way of seeing that takes both artist and viewer into those subtle realms of light and dark where color is muted and identity often confused or absent. Such absence of clarity is liberating. In the blur of fused light and shadow, real identity and meaning are discovered. In the unfamiliar and uncertain, time and place no longer matter. Like the Tonalist painters of the late 19th and 20th centuries, I am concerned primarily with work that evokes mood and mystery and which engages the viewer in subtle and intimate ways. As an artist, I am drawn to places of solitude and mystery. What is important to me has more to do with the meaning that comes from a place, the memories and wonder that place invokes rather than the place itself. I prefer the viewer be drawn into a realm of discovery beyond location or identity, more personal than geography. Here, subjects become free from any original intent or idea I might have had. Increasingly, I like to work quickly, composing the painting using color and contrast in tonal relationships directly in a unified approach. There is, for me, that same sense of wonder a photographer must feel just at the point where eye and lens meet and the question rises just as the shutter is released. So that what I set out to do in painting ends up quite differently, as if something is lost (and gained) in the play of all those elements I am led toward. Painting, for me, is a deeply intuitive process, a way of seeing that is part conscious, part involuntary. I am drawn into those subtle realms where colors are muted and subjects emerge without names. It is like visiting the delta in winter when the fog sets in, where images appear and disappear in the mist. The greatest pleasure for me as an artist is observing myself inadvertently getting “lost” within the work where intention gives way to mystery, as what is known at the beginning about a thing becomes less certain and sometimes, more difficult to comprehend. My influences are the American tonalists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (James Whistler, George Inness, and William Keith) and the photographers Eugene Meatyard and Brassai.