Sondra Olson

Artist’s Statement

I am a painter in the tradition of the late 19th and early 20th century Tonalist Painters who infused their landscapes with a sense of mood and a mystical quality that was deeply engaging. I am moved by the subtle variations of color I discover on any given day in any particular season. These natural, subdued and sometimes darker colors of the earth represent a more intimate view of the way things are. There is something quite lovely and joyous for me, making visible the slightest undertones of light, revealing nature’s mood and mystery.

What is important to me in painting has more to do with the meaning that comes from a place, the memories and wonder that place invokes rather than the place itself. I prefer the viewer be drawn into a realm of discovery beyond location or identity, some place remembered vaguely or understood from within, more personal than geography. In this way, subjects become no longer the places I am visiting in actuality; instead, they emerge on their own, freed from any original intent or representation. Increasingly, I like to work quickly, composing the painting using color and contrast in tonal relationships directly in a unified approach. There is that same sense of wonder a photographer must feel just at the point where eye and lens meet and the question arises just as the shutter is released. So that what I set out to do in painting ends up quite differently. Something is lost and gained in the play of all those elements I am led toward.

Painting, for me, is a deeply intuitive and feeling process beyond time or place, somewhere we have all traveled in our collective and universal remembrances. The process of painting is a way of seeing that is part conscious, part involuntary. I am naturally led into those subtle realms of light and dark where colors are muted and subjects emerge without names. It is like visiting the delta in winter when the fog sets in, where images appear and disappear into the mist. Such simplicity is liberating. In the absence of any identification, I feel anchored against the unfamiliar and the uncertain as if time and place no longer matter. The painter and subject are the same.

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