Artist of the Week: Meredith Olson
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Senior art major Meredith Olson hasn’t always thought of herself as an artist. Growing up, she traveled often and visited many museums, but since she couldn’t draw well, she didn’t think of art as something she could do. After taking graphic design and publication her freshman year at Westmont, she realized that she had found her calling. “I had a very narrow definition of an artist, but once I broadened that, I realized I was passionate about art,” Olson says, “I like curating things.”
Olson plans to go into graphic design and branding, but she also enjoys photography and spray painting. Her senior show showcased photographs of her closest friends and family, as well as some graphic design elements, and her senior project will be a triptych of plexiglass, paint, and spray paint inspired by the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer.
“It’ll be a modern, abstract representation of stained glass,” Olson says, her eyes lighting up as she describes her project, “I really like color, and I care a lot more about color and form than technique or detailed representational art.” Her senior project is largely inspired by the artist Heather Day, who specializes in large, abstract, mixed media compositions, but she draws inspiration from a variety of places, from 1960s Swiss graphic design to Matisse to her time spent in India to the way light shines through trees on campus.
Olson’s artistic philosophy comes from the concept of putting God’s grace and beauty on display. “I think contemporary art can kind of be shocking and gross for the sake of being dark and shocking and gross...People are so sad, and they need joy and to be reminded of the good beautiful things,” she says, “I see a trend towards that darkness, and I like to go in the other direction.”
She acknowledges that there is a potential for her art to be seen as just fluffy and fun and happy, but Olson strongly believes that art can be happy and profound and deep, all at the same time, and believes that making art can make a difference in the world.
“When I was in India, I was with a bunch of RS majors, and they all wanted to do all these really deep profound things like going into ministry or becoming a missionary, and I was like, I just wanna make things look good,” Olson says, laughing a little, “And that doesn’t feel like enough.”
From that experience, Olson decided to look into the intersection of graphic design and nonprofits, and pursued that idea to her semester on Westmont in San Francisco, where she worked as a communications intern for 826 National, a nonprofit that offers free tutoring and writing classes.
Olson has also partnered with another Westmont student, Mary Elizabeth Heard, for Heard’s company Marigold & Co, which employs women in India to make wallets, jewelry, pajamas, and other products. Olson designed the logo for Marigold & Co, and helped Heard create the website.
Olson isn’t exactly sure where she’ll end up after she graduates, but she hopes to travel the world, live in India someday, and continue to do graphic design in the nonprofit sector, similar to her work with 826 National. “That was a very clear example of me feeling like ‘This is what I want to do,’” she says, “I don’t know where I’ll do it, but that’s what I want to do.”