What is the origin of creativity?
If you ask me creativity comes from my environment and my relationship with my surroundings.
If you ask my friend and artist Karen Olson she will be more specific.
Meet Karen Olson: fine art and conceptual photographer
Seeing Karen’s recent work is like meeting Karen for the first time. Her work is markedly different and so is she.
This year Karen’s husband died. Suddenly.
In the conversation below Karen and I discuss loss and how this struggle translated into the most beautiful and powerful work of her artistic career.
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There was a shift in your process and your style and I first noticed it in your WATERLILY collection. How do you describe that shift?
I was reacting to my environment. It was unplanned and the environment took me in, and I intensify it in my editing process.
You recently completed a photographic body of work titled HIDDEN. It’s compelling. And beautiful. What is the concept behind that work?
HIDDEN is a photographic visualization of how I was feeling. It was a way of communicating what was going on with me. What I now realize is that I was in shock. I was in shock for 3 months and I didn’t realize that I was until that surreal feeling of not knowing where I was in space and time disappeared. Then I realized that it was post traumatic stress. Panic attacks and anxiety attacks. When I started to come down off of that I felt really, really tired. I’m still tired. And still raw around the edges.
HIDDEN is about emotion. How to visualize emotion will likely always be my life’s work. If we can visualize how we feel it is so much easier to understand what is going on. Most of the time we don’t get it … we don’t understand what is going on inside of us. It feels like a storm that won’t stop blowing. If we can look at it we can study it. That was the motivation for this work. I wanted to thrive. I wanted to survive.
The last time we spoke we had a lengthy discussion about grief and the disconnect between well-meaning people and the things they say …
Relating to people was and still is hard. What I want and need from them from one minute to the next is very, very different.
The fastest way to a meltdown is that look of pity. When I see that I don’t like it. I can’t deal with it.
What did and do you need from people in that process of grief?
I’m sure this is true for just about everyone… we need to tell the story. Some people have a hard time doing that but it’s mostly because a person doesn’t want to hear or can’t take it or doesn’t know how to react so we won’t tell the story. But inherently we need to tell the story. We absolutely need to let it out. I need to be able to trust that person. And if their face reflects, I’m here. Tell me. Tell me how you feel. It helps. It’s so simple but it seems really hard for people to do.
Portrait photography is Karen’s passion. Her work is emotive, dreamy and contemplative. It’s beautiful and it’s real.
Karen is the Executive Director at The Art Loft in Rockland, Maine.
She is a contributor to Arcangel Images; an online resource for premium creative, professional-use stock photography.
Find me, Catherine Sprod on Instagram.
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