Emerging Artist Exhibit: Paul Olsen


Opening: Friday, August 12, 6-8pm
Opening: Artist remarks at 7pm
Exhibit runs from Saturday, August 13
to Thursday, August 18
11am – 4pm daily


Old Art Building



Of Winds and Waves and White Pines:
An Artist’s Love of Good Harbor Bay

Artist’s Statement
Towering white pines stand as sentinels, dotting the shoreline of Good Harbor Bay. Ever vigilant, they stand guard over wildflower-filled dunes, flitting songbirds, warm inland lakes teeming with perch, bluegill, and bass, trillium-blanketed forests, and clear streams dancing around fallen cedars. On the stone speckled sands, there are moments of total peace when Lake Michigan is a mirror stretched to the horizon, and other times when north winds slam massive emerald waves against icy banks. I stand in awe of this place. Bracketed by the bluffs of Pyramid Point to the west and Whaleback to the Northeast, Good Harbor Bay possesses a subtle majesty and is truly a natural gem.

As an artist, the idea of “place” plays a significant role in my work. I believe as a society we must be more mindful of the minutiae of the places in which we live, work, and play. Only through this kind of local awareness can we see the effects we are having on our environment, and the effects it has on us. We often cite people or ideologies as our biggest influences, but I'd argue the places we are surrounded by can have an equally profound effect on our identity.

This exhibition is filled with paintings created over the course of one year. It showcases natural subjects and scenes, all captured within the Good Harbor Bay Watershed, an area redeemed from early industrialist pursuits and primarily protected by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Grateful for the restoration of the natural qualities of this place, I pause to consider the competing demands of preservation and development, framed on local and personal scale but ever relevant to how we define progress.

This type of artistic study of a place has broad roots. For me, the paintings of the Canadian Group of Seven were my inspiration for this series of works. In The Group of Seven and Tom Thompson, I found my own meaning in the quote from artist Lawren Harris: “No man can roam or inhabit the (North) without it affecting him... (An artist must become one with the spirit of a place) to create living works in their own right, by using forms, colours, rhythms, and moods, to make a harmonious home for the imaginative and spiritual meaning it has evoked in him.”

As you experience this show, I hope something is evoked in you. I hope the concept of place resonates with you, and I hope you are able to consider the places that have had a profound effect on you.

About Paul Olsen

Paul is a locally renowned painter who has shown work in various galleries in Leelanau County over the past ten years, worked as a product designer, and taught elementary art. He made the shift to being a full-time oil painter in 2021 and is excited to share his knowledge of painting with you.


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