Sarah Olsen- Show 2012


A present day blessing of the sun

Upon arriving in Gairloch, Scotland as an artist in residence for Ceangal, I felt consumed by the vast beauty and humbled by nature.  The moody and voluptuous sky; the forceful wind; the delicate, robust plant life all left me tongue tied.

After several tours of the landscape, I became intrigued by the human history of the Highlands and, in particular, the Bronze age “round house” structures along Auchtercairn mountain right above Gairloch.  I was particularly fascinated by one of the larger round houses that may have been used for community gatherings and perhaps solstice celebrations.  This large round house structure faces the prevailing winds as it opens directly towards the sea.

There is also a rock atop the mountain that was deposited by the glaciers. This imposing rock looks as though it may plummet through the round houses and into the village with the touch of a breeze.  As I stood in amazement at this rock, I couldn’t help but wonder if ancient inhabitants had not done so as well.  I wondered if, along with the winter solstice, the rock had influenced where they built their round houses.  With the rock teetering above them, by placing themselves directly in its path, were they paying homage to the divine?

While combing the beach and observing the rapidly changing weather and shifting sunlight through rain, I became interested in the circle as a symbol: the circle of the sun, the round house circle, and the use of circles in rituals.  It struck me that while the ancients may have prayed for the sun to warm the earth in the dead of winter, our modern prayer may be more of a plea and a wish.

During Ceangal, I created a series of objects and performed small rituals in order to plea with the sun and beg for solutions.  I created a small altar and climbed up to the rock above Auchtercairn to present my wish to the sky.  After I placed the altar, I climbed down and stood at the center of the round house directly below the rock and held up dry grasses from the fields to present my wish to the earth.  Far below on the beach, I created a rope wreath from trash and formed seaweed circles to present my wish to the sea.

EARTHSEASKY is about a longing to renew and a hope to find solutions for our environmental problems. I have created a series of objects using household trash and rope washed up on the beach to question the staggering quantity of waste each person produces daily.  For the exhibit, I have combined my fabricated objects together in one piece.

This residency, while only two short weeks, will inform my future works.  Though I live in the bustling urban environment of New York City, this landscape will find its way into my paintings.  For the time spent in this exquisite and remote place, I can only say thank you.


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