Olga Ziemska is a sculptor and public artist that lives & works in Cleveland, Ohio in a studio by Lake Erie. She is a recipient of many prestigious grants and awards including a Fulbright Fellowship in 2002 and a Creative Workforce Fellowship in 2009, which is generously funded by Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.
In 2007, Ziemska was selected as a Wendy L. Moore Emerging Artist by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland. She has participated in several residencies nationally and abroad, including Centre of Polish Sculpture in Poland and I-Park in Connecticut.
Her work is exhibited both nationally and internationally, with work reviewed in Sculpture magazine. Ziemska’s other half of heart & home is found in her family’s beloved city of Warsaw, Poland. Ziemska is currently working on a large-scale outdoor sculpture for Columbus State Community College, which is slated for unveiling in the Fall of 2012.
Art as a tool for understanding life. Helping us to discover how our minds create all these visions of reality. Art allows us to question values, morals, philosophies, religions, science, physics, and our selves. Giving us the tools to help understand and see further into the nature of the world, that is above, below and in-between. We utilize science to explain our physical world, but art can be utilized to explain our soul.
Reweaving the fabric of reality. Probing the inner pieces of atoms to see into the interior of stars. Answering the questioning mind quietly– carefully. Exploring all the mirrored paths of consciousness with extended hands. Opening the doorway to the infinite. Being still to listen. These are all the progressions, the steps in comprehending our place in this ever-changing space. Taking many pieces to create a simpler form through thought and action.
Gazing through an open doorway, looking beyond the lifeless forms that our lives have become looking beyond, into the very face of god.
“Is that you?” they ask themselves.
Ah, so we were all right in the end. Still being still to listen. Returning meaning back to nature. Making the human body a part of the whole, not the whole part. Blending the body in. Showing how easily it can mesh, morph and disappear. The body is nothing without that which surrounds it. This is an ever-changing reflection.
A letter of intentions
Creating the moment that the body may acknowledge where it is. Passing through the physical, mental… to the heart, gut, center; our soul. Creating a situation that speaks of the present moment, moment, moment. Encountering something that reminds you where you are placed, who you are, and what this possibly may mean. Ultimately, it is about meaning and finding the connections in any given moment to see. This ability thus, is dependent on any given individual’s capacity to take in, give out breathe.
I find myself recently thinking often of the viewer; extending out, wanting to make the communication clear and simple, but very focused and direct.
Previously, I spent time within myself, considering myself in relation to the world. Ideally, I would like to reach the point that I am moved from focus on the self, moved from focus on the viewer, to create the moments where we focus on us, as a whole, together. This sort of idealism I want to convey, without a distorted view of perfection, but with the realism of imperfection. This is what this is, this is what this can be.
The language of potential.
I enjoy when a work moves in a manner that speaks as a whole, and then reveals a part, speaks, and makes reference back to the whole. A truth is revealed when a work/statement can move continually in this motion. I believe that in these moments, silence is most appreciated. Offering a quiet conversation with the viewer. These works are intended for your interaction, I am thinking of you.
Can work be made in which you feel the extended hand reaching out to you? That softens the critical gaze of the often times hardened tired conditioned mind?
Can anything be simple anymore?
So these then are not questions for me, but rather questions for you. I speak these as statements of my being as momentary body. I have constructed this reality. Realizing I am endlessly waking from my dream. It is actually so simple that we often do not see it. The struggle then is to find that fixed point, that center. and walk with your eyes focused and your body mind soul flexible.
Fine lines and elastic limbs. Which way are you walking now?
My work comes from my words, my words come from my living, my living comes from my knowing of death. Ah, it is endless and it is beautiful. Hmm… and simple too.
How did you become interested in art and why sculpture as a means of creative expression?
I have always been interested in art since I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are at the table drawing intently with stacks of paper and my yellow plastic box full of crayons (which I have and use to this day). As a child I was a quiet kid that had a very abundant internal world, where I spent a lot of time being creative and in my imagination. Art became one of my earliest forms of pure expression and a direct way I could communicate my thoughts, ideas and experience with my peers, friends and family, without having to rely on words.
Both my parents and brother immigrated from Poland to the United States in the early 70’s and I was born shortly thereafter in 1976. I have always said that “it is Poland in my house” despite the fact that I lived in Midwest America surrounded by American families and American culture. I always felt as though I was living in between two cultures and two languages, so naturally I developed a space of my own with a language and culture that existed in between these two places; a space that was based on all things universal and bridged these apparent cultural and linguistic gaps.
Art became one of the ways I could communicate with others without the need to know a specific language or culture well, and instead I could intuitively communicate about all the things that are universally shared and understood by all human beings; the things that underlie all of life and connect all of us to one another. That is why I came to the realization that art can be a great connector and I wanted to do something that focused on making connections in life, and sculpture became that medium that best expressed these ideas and experiences for me.
Art can be used in a way that communicates universally beyond cultural language and cultural understanding, to a type of visceral understanding that encompasses all of nature and all of humans. In my work and life I am less interested in focusing on what separates and fragments life—since this seems to be the pervading and prevalent habit, but rather I am focused on showing how everything in life connects to everything. This basic idea is within all of my work; this idea is the foundation and motivation that I have in creating art.
Taking a look at your portfolio, we have to appreciate that there is a strong predilection for elements from the natural environment. How would you define the link between your art and nature?
I believe that everything in life, in the universe, is nature. This means I do not agree with the current popular dictionary definition of nature which states that nature is “the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations”.
This is an outdated and flawed definition, which needs to be reexamined and redefined to reflect our current understanding of the world around us that has
changed significantly from when this definition was first developed. I believe that humans and human creations are nature and a reflection of nature. Everything in life is derived from the same basic elements that form everything in nature, including our selves. Even our thoughts are a process of nature. There is no separation.
One project that has drawn much attention is Stillness in motion: The Matka Series, in which you explore the concept of place through the human figure. How did you come about this idea?
The idea came to me as a single idea while traveling on a Fulbright grant to Poland in 2003, where I made the work during a residency at the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Oronsko, Poland. Due to the works resonance with people I decided to continue making these figures all around the world, where I am currently interested in the idea of how the natural environment and the natural native materials used to make each Matka would affect the appearance and tone of each piece.
I think that the natural environment and materials of a given country or area will reflect through the work and may shed light on how our natural surroundings affect us and help us in the creation of our culture and identity. It may show indications of how our environment is us, and makes us who we are.
What are your sources of inspiration?
The world around me offers all the materials, elements and conditions that I need to create work and be inspired. I think that paying attention, staying open and receptive, and keeping an inquisitive perspective that is full of awe about the world around you, is key to creativity and the creative process. As an artist (and human being) I am an endless observer—often, if not perpetually, sitting in the role of “the other”.
I am often the outsider looking in, left to quietly peer into the world turning around me with a sensitive perception to moments when interesting and newly discovered connections are made and new ideas spring forth. As an artist my function is to see these moments as often as possible, to recognize them, and then to synthesize them in some sort of physical and or observable form into my work. The process of creating in and of itself is deeply inspiring.
Do you have a new project in process that you can share with us?
My next commission is for the City of Cleveland, Ohio in the United States; which is where I was born and raised after my parent’s immigrated from Poland. I will be creating a large-scale outdoor public sculpture titled “Dendrite”. This work is inspired by dendrites which are tree-like nerves found in our brain that carry information and form connections within our brain.
The piece is a fragment of a head that appears to be emerging from the ground or merging with the ground, depending on the viewers’ perspective. At the center of the head is a tree emerging from within. The piece will be made using reinforced concrete, or ferrocement, which is a building technique that Antoni Gaudi employed in many of his organic architectural works. I am looking forward to creating this highly hand-sculpted work in ferrocement and seeing it completed and unveiled sometime in the fall of 2013.
Issue 13 “Supernatural”