M. (Margaret) Pettee Olsen, (b. 1963 – Rochester, New York) is best known for their spatially dynamic, boundary-pushing paintings. Their work, described by art historian Stephanie Grilli, Yale Ph.D. as “mutable perceptual events”, explores the relationship between upending meaning and usual ways of seeing and knowing.
As a very young artist exploring a wide range of media, Pettee Olsen trained intensively in dance and visual art, winning an invitation to tour as a corpse-de-ballet understudy with the American Ballet Theater. When an injury exposed the limits of the body as a creative tool, Pettee Olsen trained their sights on painting and went on to attend the Rhode Island School of Design.
By age twenty-four, Pettee Olsen had co-founded the lithography press, Oberon Press Ltd in TriBeCa, in Manhattan, as founding curator. The press collaborated with artists such as Vija Celmins, William T. Williams, Robert Mangold, and others. Since the press’ founding, Pettee Olsen has focused on painting — turning their concerns about upending meaning and breaking boundaries to the history of painting and the luminous surface.
Their approach is not in series, rather the artist creates in non-linear progression, revisiting themes while never repeating the use, order, and function of their creative devices. Thematically, paintings range from reflecting the highlit screens of our media-driven lives to the imposition of categorical thinking on pure unbounded awareness. Though early work is centered on the body and movement, the artist has become increasingly interested in the neuro-psychological roots of perception.
Career highlights have been published in ArtForum and Art News. Additionally, the artist has been received positively by the press including Westword — A Village Voice publication, The Denver Post, The Providence Journal, Art New England, and others. Most recently, they have been a fellow at the Ucross Foundation. Pettee Olsen has been the recipient of numerous awards, including an Artists Grant from the Rhode Island School of Design. Pettee Olsen also holds a Masters’s degree from Columbia University in the City of New York.
M. Pettee Olsen is a fully engaged participant in the current art scene with previous inclusion in symposia on their work, recorded podcasts, and several curatorial projects. Currently, an independent short film is underway about their art. M. Pettee Olsen’s work is included in private collections internationally.