Penny Olson’s approach to her artistic practice is analogous to a scientific investigation into the relationship between art and technology. In her new series Wafers, she takes hi-tech found objects and transforms them into fine art.

The series began in 2014 after Olson toured the Nanotechnology labs at Stanford University. After collecting discarded silicon wafers from the facility, she photographed them and created inkjet prints, or rather digital interpretations and expansions of the color and structure of the computer chips. Olson explains that she digitally “condenses” the high-resolution photographs until the image of the chip converges into a blurred impression of stacked geometrical grids.

The photographs exude a painterly quality, yet Olson uses consumer grade computer software as her paintbrush as she experiments with parts of a scan or digital photograph. In the case of her Wafer series, she prints the digital file on silver paper and then mounts and laminates it, returning the image, which came from a physical object, back to a physical form.

The imagery and the creative process of Olson’s work recalls gridworks by Agnes Martin, Xerography during the 1970s, Nam Jun Paik’s deconstruction of technology, and most recently, on view at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, Gerhardt Richter’s large-scale piece Strontium, a black and white geometric mural derived from digitally-manipulated photographs.

About the Artist

Penny Olson received an MFA from University of California, Los Angeles, a BFA from California College of Arts, and also studied at School of Visual Arts, (NY), American Film Institute (Los Angeles), Mills College, (Oakland), and in Japan at Miasa Bunka Center and Hongo Orimono Kobo.

Her work was included in Frontiers in Fiber: The Americans, an international exhibition organized by the United States Information Agency, which traveled to Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manila, Philippines; Hong Kong Arts Center, Hong Kong; National Art Center, Jakarta, Indonesia; National Museum of Singapore, Singapore; National Art Galleries, Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia;Thailand Art Center, Bangkok; Kyoto National Museum of Art, Kyoto, Japan; and Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei. She has also exhibited her work at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles; Stanford Art Spaces at Stanford University; Zero1 Biennial, San Jose; North Dakota Museum of Art; and Downey Museum of Art in California. Olson was a teaching associate and lecturer at UCLA for twenty years, and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.