Naomi Olsen in her home studio. Olsen is the featured artist for the Agassiz Monday Painters’ 55th Anniversary art show held this month.

Naomi Olsen in her home studio. Olsen is the featured artist for the Agassiz Monday Painters’ 55th Anniversary art show held this month.

Painter finds beauty in the darker corners of life

Naomi Olsen draws inspiration from personal challenges in life

Naomi Olsen doesn’t make art to please her audience.

In fact, the multi-medium creator admits that her exhibitions have actually made some people uncomfortable.

“A lot of people ask me if I should talk to someone,” Olsen says with a laugh. “Seriously, I’ve had a lot of that.”

But Olsen needs no therapist. She just likes to express herself on canvas.

In that particular case the display in question was one of her first shows at an Agassiz Monday Painters exhibit almost 15 years ago.

She arranged her paintings created around a polio theme, including a still life of a leg brace that she’s kept since surviving the disease as a child.

Her response to the largely educational exhibit wasn’t very positive.

“People were saying I was painting death and misery,” says the short and affable Olsen. “It makes me madder and I want to paint more.”

And if the contrast of her outward character and some of her work isn’t obvious, there is the unmissable polarity of her pieces that a tour of her Morris Valley home quickly reveals.

Scenic mountains and skies in one wall-mounted landscape are soon outnumbered by bronze three dimensional heads emerging from canvases conveying extreme emotion.

“I’ve always been leaning towards the different feelings of people instead of just the casual, ‘Gee that’s a nice portrait of you, isn’t that fun,’” Olsen says. “You get a thousand pictures of Mount Cheam, how many times can you paint it?”

Much of her inspiration comes from her own struggles with polio and those fights of her family members with other complications.

There’s one of the darker mixed-media pieces on the wall of her house’s front room that is based on a period when her son had constant night terrors.

Another portrays multiple personalities, sourced from a relative’s bipolar disorder.

And now, shifting away from the paverpol and styrofoam heads, Olsen is back to oil paints.

She’s working on a portrait of her grandson who is autistic.

“Autism is just a word, you really don’t know the person,” Olsen says. “I mean the kid’s a genius. He’s seven right now and I thought, ‘I’m going to paint Sam.’ He’s the sweetest kid.”

In a photo, Sam looks at the camera holding a berry. In her painting, Olsen intends to paint him in grey and white, his gaze intent on the berry.

That is one painting she hopes to have finished for April’s Agassiz Monday Painters 55th Anniversary art show.

Olsen, who paints by the name ‘Nai’, is looking forward to the event with the people who inspire her work and is always happy to get her message out.

“I like to get my thoughts out there to different people so they can see that the world isn’t just made up of flowers and lilies and beautiful spring water,” she says. “Sometimes there’s a ripple in there.”

Olsen’s own ripples are being felt around the Lower Mainland, having shown in the Kickstart program (works by artists with disabilities) at the Pendulum Gallery in Vancouver and at the sci-fi convention VCON.

She got her start with the Agassiz Monday Painters when a neighbour convinced her to join, and has learned the ropes in the years since.

A self-taught artist, Olsen hasn’t taken much direction in her career so far.

“I took one lesson for the mountain that I did,” she gestures to the landscape on her wall. “That was fun but I like to go beyond that.”

“I’d rather do a volcano.”

The Agassiz Monday Painters 55th Anniversary art show is Saturday, April 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Agassiz United Church Hall, 6860 Lougheed Hwy, Agassiz, B.C. Admission is free and refreshments are by donation. More than 25 participating artists who use a variety of media will be present with their work. There will also be a free draw for door prizes. Contact Lynda Anderson by phone for more information: 604-794-5554.

 

Just Posted

(Adam Louis/Observer)
PHOTOS: Students leap into action in track events at Kent Elementary

At Kent Elementary, when the sun’s outside, the fun’s outside. The intermediate… Continue reading

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

One person was transported to hospital with minor injuries following a two-vehicle crash on Hot Springs Road June 10. (Adam Louis/Observer)
One hurt following two-vehicle crash on Hot Springs Road

Agassiz Fire Department, B.C. Ambulance Service attended with RCMP

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read