The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 6, 2014

Drawing cards: Carnegie exhibiting artists take portraiture in different directions

Carnegie exhibiting artists take portraiture in different directions

Though they come from the same drawing group and have supported one another's work for many years, the styles of portraiture exhibited by Pamela Bidelman and David Alan Olson could hardly be more divergent.

Whereas Olson strives for near-perfect duplication of his subjects, Bidelman's forms are mostly unembellished and veer into the abstracted. As Olson's subjects repose in a state of unadorned existence, Bidelman's figures are laden with expressive sub-text.

As longtime members of a regular St. Peter drawing group who have supported one another's work for many years, their contrasting styles are well-suited to the concurrent exhibits they are hosting through March 22 at the Carnegie Art Center.

Though Olson joined the drawing group a few years after moving to St. Peter in 1979, his exhibited works are mainly comprised of those finished in the last two years, a period he calls the most prolific in his life.

Now considering himself a full-time painter — "I'm disappointed if I don't finish one a week," he said — Olson's work demonstrates an arresting attention to detail.

In his portrait "Black and White Shirt," Olson's captures his subject with expression and bearing slightly upturned, fingers wrapped around a coffee mug. The folds of her blouse, the placement of her feet, the color of her eye shadow are all rendered in lifelike imitation.

Olson said such portraiture is an exercising in exploring beauty for its own sake. In his work, Olson said he wishes to remove all vestiges of the artist himself, leaving only his subjects and the visual dynamic they inhabit.

"There is this unique individual," Olson said, describing why he chooses portraits over other styles, "and there is no one else like it. And they themselves will never be that person again."

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