In the Half Sleep, 2008, 16 ½ X 16 inches, All photos courtesy the artist and List Gallery
Fiber artist Michael Olszewski makes abstract but highly textured collages that creep up and assert their presence slowly--aesthetic journeys for the eye.
Most of Olszewski's work is based on slow processes--crocheting and other needlework and fiber processes like couching and embroidery and dying, journeys for the artist in his studio as he works. But they also are aesthetic journeys for the soul.
Michael Olszewski, Undercurrent, 2007, 12 X 9 ¾ inches
That sense of patience, thought and emotion comes through powerfully in an exhibit at Swarthmore's List Gallery, of 26 works, including four (equally somber and heartfelt) watercolors.
Michael Olszewski, Downpatrick Head #2, 2005, watercolor, 7 x 7 inches
Olszewski, a long-time professor of textile design at Moore College of Art and Design, works in a vocabulary is staunchly Modernist, with cubes and vortexes that bring to my mind Malevich and Richard Long. But unlike Malevich, there's a mappy, landscape undercurrent in all the work, and not just in the landscape watercolors in the exhibit (that date from a recent residency at Ballinglenn Arts Foundation in Ireland).
Michael Olszewski, Disquiet, 2008 11 X 9 ½ inches
Olszewski's palette has long been on the somber side--mostly blacks and grisaille--and in this case it is appropriate for the events they reflect in his life--the loss of his father and the disintegration of his mother's mind to Alzheimer's, a subject that seems to crop up regularly lately among work by artists of a certain age. Olszewski uses Eva Hesse-like tangles to express the mental loss, but he restrains it in scale and in setting.
Michael Olszewski, Walls, 2008. 12 X 10 inches
What's great about Olszewski's work is you don't need to know this background to find a way in to the marvelous textures and map-like landscapes of fabric. And no matter how closely you look at these detailed images, you cannot get their full impact without being in their presence.