Carved & assembled wood, drawing by Gwyn Madeen; 27" X 29" X 11" with doors open; 27" X 16" X 8" with doors closed.
Chris Olson – about the Artist
A creative maker from early childhood, Chris Olson now works and lives with his wife, artist Gwyn Madeen, in a house and studio on the Vallecitos River in Northern New Mexico.
Chris Olson's life-long shamanic journey is made manifest in his mysterious framed wall mounted 3-D tableaux. Olson lets us peek into the daily life of his characters that he carves from pine wood, who are bird-headed humans. The charming stop-action of the inhabited characters give the viewer time to pause and plumb the depths of their own reactions to his tableaux,
Olson spent many years in Ethiopia as a child where he enjoyed the openly expressive spiritual life. Returning to America as a teenager he was disappointed to find the American ethos constricted. In college, Olson studied art but eventually chose a professional career as an RN in the ER, which gave rise to intense personal shamanic experiences. He witnessed visually, entities hovering around patients, nurses, and especially crowded around doctors. These vivid occurrences resulted in Olson involving himself in deep study of Shamanism.
Now retired from nursing, Olson has turned to making art full time, and so has time to delve into making his shamanic visions manifest in this body of work. This exhibition are the result of Olson’s continuing shamanic investigation made manifest. “Christopher is a conscientious worker, but tends to daydream” read one of his school report cards, a comment from one of his teachers, and we are so grateful for this continuing condition. Olson's pine-wood carved and honed effigy of a man, with cat-like paws for feet and his body inked with a staccato of star tattoos, originated from a shamanic vision. Olson himself is enchanted, and our gift is his enchanted works.
I’ve been an artist since an early age, whittling sticks at age 4, modelling clay, and living in my creative imagination. One report card said, “Christopher is a conscientious worker, but tends to daydream.” That hasn’t changed.
During the mid 70s I lived in Ethiopia as my parents were missionaries (a preacher and a teacher). Being a kid there with no TV and very few bought toys, we invented games. A favorite of mine was running around with my homemade bow and arrows. I remember making quite a few airplanes and boats as well.
In high school and college, I took a lot of art classes, but started carving wood on my own years later. It wasn’t until I had been a “starving artist” fpr many years, and my daughter was about 9, That I knew I neede some sort of decent paying job. Then one thing miraculously led to another and I became an RN in the ER. Working there also coincided with a spiritual awakening. I became acutely aware of “energy” around people, as well as quite often feeling someone standing next to or behind me. I knew these unseen people were helping me. I also became aware of them around other nurses and especially, the doctors.
In hindsight, I can say that I’ve always been a spiritual seeker, trying to understand the big “Why”. Taoism held my interest for a number of years, but Shamanism has captured it. I’ve spent many years studying various healing modalities, and have been on a Shamanic path for 11 years. I have finally come home to creating art as my spiritual practice.
Chris Olson, 2022
The charcoal and pastel drawings on Chris’s tableaux were done by Gwyn Madeen:
Some of these drawings were created after witnessingA ‘drift’ of swifts undulating like a black river across The sky.Other pieces I did while meditating on theLeaves of the trees against endless blue, while airplanesflew overhead in spaciousness.
This body of drawings was done during a time in my lifeof much grief, I can see now they were helping me processthe beauty, brutality, and finiteness of life and deathin the natural world we live in.
Gratitude to my husband Chris Olson for helping me