For our second artist feature in anticipation of our BOLT Works in Progress exhibition, we invite you to learn more about Olya Salimova. Born and raised in Russia but now living in the U.S., Salimova is a visual and performance artist who works between painting, sculpture and performance.
"I view myself as a gardener, and my studio work as gardening practice," shares Salimova. "I sow seeds, they propagate, then grow. Everything I make is like a gardener planting seeds, and I like to propagate several things at a time. The gardening aspect is important because that is where bees come from. Artists work like bees.” Through this metaphor, Salimova speaks to the perpetual labor artists put in working with the substances they have at their disposal. She has been using beeswax for nearly four years now.
The beeswax originally came from a friend asking if Salimova could do something with old frames. Bees reuse the frame beekeepers put in several times, which are only changed when the frame becomes too old or the bees become diseased. "First I melt the wax, then I cast an object out of it to create my own mythological or “plausible” figures,” she shares. "I view the beeswax and figures as necessary together. I like its moldability, that it can be used as either a solid or liquid.”
The wax is sometimes used alone, and others in combination with different materials. Sometimes she casts it in molds, other times layering it on the surface of an object to create a painting, or waxing and polishing an object or a painting with it.
"Since beginning the BOLT residency, my work has evolved quite a bit,” says Salimova. She is still interested in using found materials that come to her, like beeswax, leather, wood and other objects with a history of use. In addition, within the last few months she has begun to think more poetically about her work. "Finding new words to describe or discover the elements in my art-making practice that propel it forward is exciting to me," says Salimova. "It has become more figurative, which differs from some of my earlier, more abstract work. My figures are in a perpetual state of transformation. They are forming and fading away like all images are."
When Salimova thinks about a new show, she comes up with a set of questions in her head. "When I travel, walking or driving, I think of questions that I ask myself reflecting on my own work and see where they stem from. Being on the road is really helpful because that is where the thinking happens.” In this way, all processes inform each other. "All is equal, necessary and important,” says Salimova.
She has both a backward- and forward-looking approach to her art, exploring ideas around neo-mythology and archi-materials, and using older found or gifted materials to create something new. "As a neo-mythic apiphilic archi-materialist, I look back at existing materials, but also through the lens of the hopeful future,” says Salimova. "By neo-mythic I mean that I create new myths to replace old ones. Apiphilic simply means that I am fond of bees. The archi-material approach means that I use old materials, not necessarily discarded and aged but familiar and historic like beeswax, wood, and steel.”
"Now that we are in a technological age, I am left to think about what will be here after us,” Salimova says. “My work is both informed by the past and alluding to the future.” These questions are highlighted in the work Salimova creates, from her plausible figures made from beeswax to her paintings, hybrid sculptures and performances.
"The purpose of the performance, entitled Origins of the World, is to create a friendly and collaborative effort, but also a hybrid and experimental one because it brings the diversity of our practices together,” says Salimova. She was initially inspired by ideas of transmutation in performance, as well as creating a highly transformative experience for all artists involved in the project.
"Through bringing our practices together, we are also welcoming the potential to transform our own practices, with the goal to see what will happen and where it will lead in the future,” she shares. "Collaborations have the potential to change the trajectory of your own art.”
Meet Olya and view her work (including a one-night-only performance) in person at our upcoming BOLT Works in Progress exhibition on September 29 from 5-8pm!
Nude shots: Chuck Pringle
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