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Interview: Bryan Olson

by: Katharine Hargreaves of WBR

WHOLE BEAST RAG: Describe your creative process: what are you looking for? What are you discovering? When is the image complete?

BRYAN OLSON: I spend a lot of time in second hand stores rummaging through what books or magazines they have on the shelves. I never really know what I’m looking for, so I just flip through the pages until I see something that catches my attention. I try to look deep into each photograph to find something unique that is buried in the image, something that the average viewer would miss. After I’ve made my selection and purchase the books for next to nothing, I take them home and meticulously “dissect” the appropriate parts from the image using scissors or a utility knife. Most of the clippings go into small bins or folders depending on the size and usually do not get used right away unless I know exactly what I’m going for. Some of the clippings sit for months, or even a year before I ever find a use for them. When I’m working on commissions or freelance projects I tend to spend hours trying to locate and combine different pieces together, especially when clients want a specific theme or item in the image. Once I find the right pieces and start to see the collage develop, I’ll take a few photographs and sit on it for about a day until my gut tells me to move forward. At that point, I carefully glue all of the pieces down using archival paste and mount the collage to a vellum surface for stability.

WBR: There isn’t much information on you in the digital sphere. Is this intentional? How might secrecy serve, rather than hinder, your goals as an artist? Or: how important is privacy to you as an artist?

BO: Not intentional at all, although I’m pretty shy. I am currently working on a new website that will have an actual bio and curriculum vitae that should help folks gain a little more information about me as an artist. I think a lot of modern day collage artists are scared of copyright infringement and aren’t really aware of what they can and can’t do with an image. It’s a very sticky situation and in some cases it’s just better to use a moniker and keep your personal information in the dark.

WBR: Are you a spiritual person? What does spirituality mean to you going forward? How is
the concept of spirituality changing?

BO: I guess I could say I’m a spiritual person. I believe that all of us have a soul that reflects itself through our personality. I don’t have the faintest clue as to where our soul ventures after death but I do know that it’s important to be a good person and have values. Those positive attributes always tend to outweigh the negative in my opinion. I think spirituality has become more of a personal thing where each individual is capable of believing in whatever they feel. Especially as we learn more about each other, the world and science.

WBR: Describe god.

BO: God is whatever you believe to be the divine being.

WBR: Describe evil.

BO: Evil is the opposite of good. We can all be a little evil at times.

WBR: Describe yourself.

BO: Tall, dark and handsome haha. I am very passionate and dedicated to my art. I write and record music and play in a band called Cement Stars with three talented lads including my brother. I am shy at times but can be goofy and outgoing. I am obsessed with anything vintage and enjoy camping and the outdoors.

WBR: Tell us something you know for certain.

BO: “Everything that ever has been always will be, and everything that ever will be always has been.” Kurt Vonnegut

WBR: What or whom do you idolize? Feel free to list as many things as you’d like. Give us one reason for each.

BO: I don’t really have idols now but when I was a teenager I definitely did. I feel like you’re much more naïve when you’re young and being that you are just a kid and haven’t experienced much, you idolize anything that inspires you. As you grow older your whole thought process changes and you realize that your idols are just as human as you are.

If I had to name a few they would be:

John Lennon- I grew up listening to a lot of Beatles and I still do to this day. John Lennon’s style of songwriting has highly influenced me as a songwriter.

Frank Lloyd Wright- I used to be obsessed with his architectural drawings when I was younger and actually wanted to be an architect but that all changed when I realized that I was no good at math.

WBR: Is idolatry wrong? Where does this concept emerge (or not) in your art?

BO: I don’t think it’s wrong or right. I think it can influence a person in a positive and negative way. I do however think the whole Justin Bieber thing is ridiculous. I guess it just depends on how extreme and outlandish the idolatry is. I’ve noticed that this concept emerges a lot in my work but not intentionally. Some of my work depicts people looking out at strange landscapes with looming entities in the distance. Maybe they are idolizing the cosmic sheet printer?

WBR: What does your ideal temple look like? What does it feel like?

BO: My ideal temple would be an articulately constructed building tucked away on a green mountain side, overlooking a lake. All of the furnishings would be mid century style with plush rugs and incense burning in every room. God I sound like a hippy.

WBR: Do you perceive the artist as idol? What’s more important: the artwork, the artist, or the audience?

BO: In many circumstances I feel the artist is the idol. For example: Salvador Dali, Picasso and Andy Warhol. You can go a whole life time and never see their work but hear their name mentioned all of the time. I think the art is definitely more important because it is the initial attractor. It’s what draws your interest and manifests emotion.

WBR: Do you have any rituals? Describe them for us.

BO: In the morning I’ll have a cup or two of coffee, check my Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook for notifications (stare at my iPhone for 45 minutes) and then head off to work. In the evening I ask Jah for a little inspiration and work on a collage or two. I might try working on some music if time allows. I try to be creative as possible in my free time because my fulltime job sucks most of my day dry.