Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Searching for Micro-Utopias, Quietly

Beehive Woodpile, Camp Tintype, Wet Plate Collodion Tintype © Nick Olson

Nick Olson visited campus on Monday and Tuesday, February 13-14, 2012 to talk about his experiences since graduating Lawrence University summa cum laude with a Studio Art Major in 2008. Trips to Europe and road-tripping across the USA ushered the way for his MFA in Photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2011. He continues to practice an antiquated photographic technology, Wet Plate Collodion, learned from tintype master John Coffer between his Junior and Senior undergrad year. He now teaches the medium on the road and most recently at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Says Nick of the process, "it forces me to slow down and contemplate the implications of time, place, an cultural shifts which have occurred over the past century." The resulting images are unique objects with a hand-wrought appearance. The mammoth 20x24 inch plates displayed under spotlights in Lawrence's Wriston Auditorium framed his peers in the idyllic Cranbrook grounds ever so isolated from nearby urban Detroit. Within Cranbrook's gates stand historic and charming buildings that transport the visitor to another time with the "real world" held at bay. The details of personal grooming and accoutrements of his sitters betray their contemporaneity. Olson will head to Mildred's Lane come spring where he will spend a few months building a replica of Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond cabin from a kit--although it should be noted that he has built cabins from logs found on-site. In his evolving pursuits, Olson seems to search and create the sort of everyday micro-utopias described by Nicolas Bourriaud in his 1998 book Relational Aesthetics (31).  Olson's gestures transform stacking firewood into sculpture and baking bread into relational art.

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