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Standout Stop for Arts Week

Fifteen Ways for Art Lovers to Kick Off Denver Arts Week

When First Friday collides with Denver Arts Week on Friday, November 2, it will create an explosion of exhibition openings, $52.80 art deals at galleries all over town and, as it happens, Día de los Muertos street celebrations connected to artwalks in the Santa Fe Drive and 40 West arts districts. On Saturday, November 3, take advantage of DAW’s Night at the Museums to visit the Denver Art Museum, the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, the Clyfford Still Museum and the Byers-Evans House Museum gallery in the Golden Triangle, as well as the close-by Museo de las Americas, all for free. You’ll also find plenty of art to explore in RiNo and other regional art districts. But just in case you’re still confused about where you want to land this weekend, here are some standout stops.

Margaret Pettee Olsen, “Information Under Fire,” 2017, synthetic polymer and reflective pigment on canvas.

Margaret Pettee Olsen, “Information Under Fire,” 2017, synthetic polymer and reflective pigment on canvas.
Margaret Pettee Olsen

Relay: Paintings by Margaret Pettee Olsen
808 Projects, 808 Santa Fe Drive
November 1 through 30
Opening Reception: Thursday, November 1, 6 to 8 p.m.

Margaret Pettee Olsen, an abstract painter with a background in limited-edition lithography, brings a printmaker’s ethos into her work, which consists of polymer-layered canvases that are painted in broadly brushed swaths of organic tangles, drips and markings she calls “edits.” See Olsen’s latest at this exhibition curated by Denver art writer Stephanie Grilli.

Westword announces Colorado Women in Abstraction

Westword, A Village Voice Media newspaper covering Denver and surrounding areas, announces Colorado Women in Abstraction at Center for Visual Arts, MSU, Denver, Friday, July 15.  My work, “Vortex” is featured (below).

Colorado Women in Abstraction

 Colorado Women in Abstraction
Courtesy of the Center for Visual Art/MSUD Margaret Pettee Olsen,”Vortex.”

Women artists, long victims of the grip of critical subjugation, are beginning to get their due, thanks in part to groundbreaking exhibitions like Gwen Chanzit’s Women of Abstract Expressionism at the Denver Art Museum. With a national show of that scope on the local lineup, Cecily Cullen of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Center for Visual Art decided to do something similar for Colorado’s healthy contingent of female abstractionists, andWestword critic Michael Paglia, a scholar of abstract art with a unique knowledge of who’s who in the state, was the clear choice to curate the CVA’s satellite exhibit. The result,Colorado Women in Abstraction, opens with a reception at 6 p.m. on July 15.

The exhibit includes a diverse cross-section of work by more than thirty artists — a “wonderful take on different approaches to abstraction,” according to Cullen — and has an educational bent, as well, with a comprehensive slate of panels and talks scheduled throughout its run, including one moderated by Paglia on August 25 and a lecture by Chanzit on September 13. “We’ll have a lot of opportunities for the community to hear from artists and experts and really learn about the abstract-art movement,” Cullen notes. “And it’s beyond time to set aside the ridiculous notion that men and women have different skills or levels of talent. Women are now being recognized for their skills as ‘artists.’”

Colorado Women in Abstraction runs through October 1 at the CVA, 965 Santa Fe Drive. For a schedule of events and more information, visit the website at call 303-294-5207.

Facture — Finding My Way in Paint

details of recent work energy 2013 Above, Waves (detail), 2013, polymer, reflective and interference pigment on canvas was sold to a private collector.


For years I’ve been inclined to put down subtle washes that I would build, layer upon layer.  I was immersed in the recognition of fast painting for so long during the eighties I reacted by defying painterly-ness in its most plastic form–thick layers of expressive oil paint.  When I began printmaking for a living, working alongside and with the last of the printer painters of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, as well as pop and conceptual artists, from Willem de Kooning to Barbara Kruger, my head and hands were in ink and everything I considered about making art was examined under this new lens of printmaking.

I recently began considering how printmaking had an effect on my art when professor of printmaking at Brooklyn College and onetime printmaking colleague, David Lantow, visited my studio last month. David said he could see printmaking’s obvious impact on the evolution of my imagery and the manner in which I made art.  My use of thin, relatively even layers of pigment and concerns for building texture graphically were indicators.

Oddly enough, I had never given this any serious thought before. The idea was liminal, but soon after our visit, I was reminded of what artist Mike Cockrill once posted on Facebook when discussing an artist’s misplaced search for an authentic voice, “Behold the core”, he said.  An artist doesn’t have to worry about finding his/her ‘voice or style’ . The hand of the artist is always there in the work–no need to go looking for it.

Printing provided a mechanism for me to slow down my thinking and to hold me to task in considering every mark.  Printmaking had helped to forge my visual vocabulary.  What was I doing by painting? I began my latest canvases with a fresh, one pointed focus in mind: facture through painting.

I began to think back to other possible influences to see if they might lend clues to my essential concerns. As a onetime performing artist I found myself looking to ‘gesture’– again. It made perfect sense…’Behold the core’. In my gut and in my bones, from all those years of dancing (see Biography),’gesture’ in all sorts of space and light was central.  But how did this fit with painting?

I found myself looking even closer at the surface of my canvases: swaths of thin white, and interference pigments, recorded trails of sensually flipped brushes on both dry and slippery surfaces over transparent-primed linen. But the soft warm grey of the canvas fiber was where I really began my inquiry.  My pallet, though not dramatically changed, now seemed to ask for a spectrum of greys, warm and cool, between iridescent, translucent and opaque whites and dark glossy and soft matte blacks. I exaggerated the feathering of bleeding pigment on linen, blending the grey of linen and the grey of paint , co-mingling these ‘stitches’ inside broad gestural strokes, sensing the need for a wiry outward wending  from vortexes of visual detritus drawing line back in.

Fragility of form, the power of gesture, the dissolution of drawing, traces and steps, edge and edge-less-ness, line of sight edits, a berth of vision– this is what I’m still after in paint.











This September 20th consider participating in the silent Auction at BMoCA. (Update –This painting was sold at auction to a private collector.)


ART MIX WavesMy work, ‘Waves’ (pictured above) will be available.  A detail (below) highlights some of this painting’s subtle reflective properties.

Center detail, "Waves" by Margaret Pettee Olsen

Click the link below to view auction items and further information on ARTMIX @ BMoCA.





Painting Is Dead, Long Live Painting

Does something have to ‘replace’ painting in the evolution of Art History? It’s kind of up to all of us to declare it dead–or not; artists, collectors, curators, gallerists, museum directors,viewers, etc.,despite what a few may believe. For me, painting is very much alive. Then again, I don’t buy in to the idea that something worth looking at, something transportive, has to be shocking, new media. Photography, for example, has been around as long as I have but I don’t think it has taken the place of painting. It offers something different. Each new thing that comes down the curatorial pike, each new invention in media, is not ‘a replacement for’ but ‘in addition to…’ the unfolding of aesthetics and ideas in Art History. Perhaps, because I don’t have the need to establish hierarchies and designate one thing above or below another, something which has absolutely nothing to do with experiencing art, I engage in seeing all sorts of work. I love the diversity and panorama of visual opportunities available today. Why trade the possibilities of full vision for a pair of horse blinders? Painting is fresh and provocative when the artist is speaking authentically, the fullness of a viewer’s experiences are tapped and deep seated memories and associations rise to the surface of full awareness with new clarity and connection. At its best, painting can instantaneously transport us through time and, as one Lawrence Charles Miller poetically pronounced on a thread by collector, Claude Reich on facebook, good painting can ‘wake up the dead’. Yes, painting is still miraculous.

I could address the post-post modern opportunity here, but that will be another post. What I want to point to now is this; the full-bodied-ness of painting, specifically through the language of abstraction, provides a visceral yet wide open and many-leagued sense of the world. It can conjure up a quiescent yet energetic field and gets straight to the unwieldy point of it. Abstraction, at its most powerful, doesn’t preach, instruct or prescribe a set of rules or circumscribe galleries of thought. It references the known while suggesting the unknown.

So what do we make of it, literally? There have been inventions and refinements in paint materials which allow artists to create work with new subtly and effect. Advances in paint media provide opportunities for painters to keep work moving in all sorts of fresh ways. Of course there are manifold ways of making art; performance is alive, blurring lines between the arts and crafts is alive, photography is alive, and the practice of painting, for me, still provides ways to create objects which imbue the world with meaning. Painting is still on the cutting edge of addressing: here, now, that which lies beyond our ken, of flesh and beyond flesh, life, death, transformation, connection, collision, commercialism and dissolution, on and on… Painting can still refresh my sense of what I see and how I see it.

I move to pronounce the majesty of painting, to call the dead awake. Painting Is Dead. Long Live Painting.

Beyond Mental Gridlock

Today, there will be no universal dis-embodied voice charting my course or suggesting my re-calculation. No i-pads, no computer stylus set for digital drawing. I’ll be brainstorming much of the day and I’ve packed lightly. Supplies for the trip: coffee, sketch paper and a graphite pencil (No 2). You laugh, ‘What could you possibly discover with such elementary tools; the flesh of trees, carbon sticks from the dust of stars?’  I’m telling you, there are universes still to discover in that simple stuff — vast spaces a mind can go–beyond charts, webs and words and this electric global campfire.

Thoughts On Cy Twombly

Even the sound of his given name is an onomatopoetic expression for the way his hand worked a canvas. Cy Twombly: light caresses over surface-—made more spacious by places of scripting, paint-scraping, wrist-rolling, reaching, stain-making, raking—straight white drips coupling with gray. Layering, over scribbles, scumbling, laying down more layers till blood orange kisses an unbleached white. These shapes–they swim, they play, suspended like jangled jelly fish, like hovering sea birds—Uccello Marino—tracing infinite loops in the sky—until a wing-dipping stroke transforms me again, and I am no longer treading wind, but tumbling, tumbling—pelvis-over-head, once again—to see.

—Margaret Pettee Olsen

Cy Twombly defied categorization as a painter working among the abstract expressionists.  He died in Rome, Italy July 5, 2011.  He was 83.


Getting ready for Florida

I am looking forward to installing a few large pieces from my Occlusion series for a show of selected works this coming month. 

The work will be on view at: UCF – Center for Emerging Media -Studio Art and the Computer Gallery 500 West Livingston Street, Orlando, Florida 

 The show runs November 1-30 

Occlusion Series, Untitled I 

  Occlusion Series, Untitled I, 56″ x 46″, Acrylic and metal pigment on canvas 

From the press release:

Margaret Pettee Olsen will exhibit selections of new work at UCF Center for Emerging Media, Orlando, Florida.  Pettee Olsen’s abstractions use reflective pigments, creating color-shifting surfaces which change depending on the light and the viewer’s perspective. The work alludes to the creation and or dissolution of internal meta-worlds.  Pettee Olsen records her entries and departures of movement through these worlds through her handling of the paint with brush and other, more discreet methods of application, inviting the viewer to enter in.  

A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, and Columbia University, Pettee Olsen’s career began pulling limited edition prints for master printers in New York City.   She is presently working on projects in the American Southwest including a worldwide project with her partner, former master printer and global network architect, William Martin Olsen.