By Annette Hinkle
Kryn Olson loves to explore her world and she does so with passion. An artist, she also happens to be a science teacher at Sag Harbor Elementary school. While there are those for whom the emotional realm of artistic expression and the fact-based world of scientific study exist at the opposite ends of the spectrum, for Olson the two operate in harmony.
The more she comes to know of the natural world, the more she is inspired to incorporate the mysteries and beauty of that world into her artwork.
This Saturday, a solo show featuring Kryn Olson’s most recent paintings opens at the new Peter Marcelle Gallery in Bridgehampton. Entitled “Earthlines” the work was inspired by Olson’s travels around the United States — from the damp Northeast to the arid Southwest and the mangrove swamps of Texas. The colorful paintings are an amalgam of her impressions and the patterns that she witnessed in the landscapes she encountered on her trips.
“It’s basically the patterns, lines and textures that are created by the Earth,” explains Olson. “They are timelines — geological timelines or patterns of flora and its all about Earth.”
But these paintings are also abstractions of nature, while they reference specific places, they are not always about a single place on earth.
“This series is predominately about traveling through the Southwest and the amazing landscapes our Southwest offers,” notes Olson. “What was especially powerful to me was being in the canyons and seeing those lines of history from former oceans and past life and the colors in that whole realm.”
For Olson, looking at the walls of a mineral streaked canyon reveal history — one that was created over millennia — much as our own personal history is formed over the course of decades and evident in the blood that courses through our veins or lines that etch our faces.
“I love having history in my paintings, under them is usually 25 layers of history,” she says. “History of family, evolution and development. I think all that comes through in my paintings and often influences me.”
“I don’t paint from photos or landscape. I paint from experiences,” she adds. “That’s a big deal for me. I think I’m more of a gut painter.”
The work in this show represents a combination of the last two years of Olson travels. The Southwest is a dominate theme, certainly, but so are other parts of the country that Olson has explored. The way in which plants grow and waterways form are evident in paintings featuring imagery of mangrove roots — strongholds in the water — and undersea vistas inspired by snorkeling trips as well as kayaking in local bays are featured as well. While on their surface, these divergent environments may bare little relationship to one another, Olson merges them into a seamless whole, making new destinations that speak of nature and the human condition.
“Recombining these images and putting them together makes an unusual painting and that’s the abstraction that comes from us,” explains Olson. “Who’s the strength of family? Who’s the strength of the plant world? There’s growth that comes out of it.”
While studying science has a way of bringing fact into focus, the mystery of the world has hardly been diluted for Olson as a result.
“It makes me want to explore things I don’t understand and inspires me to want to create that which makes me go ‘Wow!” she attests.
While Olson is greatly inspired by the natural sites, it is ultimately the culture of a place and its people that really move her.
“I travel with my gut and heart, not so much with my head,” she admits. “I love to take in the culture and people. If I see the sights, it’s a bonus.”
Though she typically chooses to travel through rural areas or third world countries, this summer, Olson is off to a much different destination.
“I’m going to Paris this summer and I’m not sure how that kind of setting will influence my painting,” she admits. “There’s so much history in Paris, I’m not sure what it will do to me. I’m going to feel the culture and history — the Eiffel Tower is a bonus.”
Olson welcomes new experiences and perhaps because she is surrounded by children in her work, she is constantly able to see the world through fresh eyes. Children inspire her to understand that new experiences, places and people are things to be cherished. It’s something adults often forget and her work is a reminder to be both grateful and alert in life.
“Teaching children always humbles me,” she says. “They’re so insightful and so honest. They’re so simple and beautiful and make me reflect what I should be.”
“I really seize the opportunity,” she adds. “Having that sensibility and that type of personality gives me the appreciation for the little things to the great things. No judgments, no expectations. Everything you’re gifted with is the ‘Wow.’ It’s the present that makes you excited about painting or doing something.”
Olson has been showing with Peter Marcelle for three years, first at his gallery on Hampton Road in Southampton and now in the new space on Bridgehampton’s Main Street. She gives him credit for shaping her vision as an artist.
“He’s been an enormous influence and mentor – he’s really given me the path and shown me how to develop,” says Olson. “I think I’m more secure in what I do because of him. He told me I had to stop painting over my work. If it sat in my studio too long I’d paint over it. He finally started taking canvases away from me. He said, ‘You’re good, you need to understand that.’”
“You need someone as an artist to validate you,” she adds. “It’s not that I would stop painting, but because of him I’m stronger and I don’t question myself.”
Just like the roots of that mangrove tree.
“Eathlines” opens with a reception this Saturday, June 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Peter Marcelle Gallery, 2411 Main Street, Bridgehampton.
Top: “Fish Leads” by Kryn Olson