Penny Olson’s photography-based work combines objects from the artist’s surrounding environment and her diverse artistic practices – digital technology, textiles, reductive aesthetics, and process-driven art. Inspiration for the work varies, from plants in Olson’s garden, to discarded hi-tech silicon wafers from the Nanotechnology Lab she toured at Stanford University, to the cement floor at her representative gallery Chandra Cerrito Contemporary.
Through the experimentation with images from ordinary observation, processed and condensed through the algorithms of technology, Olson calls attention to the details of our world as seen through the lens of technology. 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.
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 Gerhardt Richter’s large-scale piece Strontium, a black and white geometric mural derived from digitally-manipulated photographs, exhibited at San Francisco’s de Young Museum. Based in the Bay Area, Olson earned her MFA from University of California, Los Angeles and her BFA from California College of the Arts. She also studied at American Film Institute in Los Angeles, School of Visual Arts in New York, Mills College in Oakland, and in Japan at Miasa Bunka Center and Hongo Orimono Kobo. She has exhibited her work nationally 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, and internationally throughout Asia. Olson was a teaching associate and lecturer at UCLA for eight years.