I grew up in the humid Florida Panhandle, where I gained a love and respect for wild and beautiful places and animals. No matter where I might live now, I will always have an awareness for snakes hiding in the grass, alligators in the creeks, and sharks in the Gulf. Once when I was a little girl, my uncle placed me on top of a picnic table while he lured an alligator away from our play area.
Nature’s patterns offer an eerie backdrop full of textures which I carve into my sculptures. Lush foliage, creatures of all sorts, and nature’s unrelenting cycle of growth and decay are on the verge of taking over our human constructs. I use clay because the material allows me to be aggressive or delicately whimsical. It is a humble material, hard to control, and has been an art medium for thousands of years. Sculpting repetitive patterns like the hairs on a pig, or the skin of an alligator are marks that commit me emotionally and physically to my work.
My subject matter has always been the plight of young girls and the challenges they face becoming women. Whether surviving trauma, such as sexual assault, physical or mental abuse, discrimination, sexualization or objectification, growing up female is fraught with danger. Women are vulnerable. However, we are also resilient, fierce, and courageous.
In addition to this, after becoming a mother, I felt a deep-rooted fear and vulnerability for my own children’s safety and the many places danger might come from. However, I also started to recognize and appreciate the primal fury I found in myself to protect my children, one that matched the ferociousness of any alligator. I believe this strength is not something new brought on by having children. It is an inherent power unburied and rediscovered that all women carry. My daughter is the model in my sculptures. She represents all young women as they come of age, venture out into the world, and find their own primal strengths.
Andrea Olmstead received her BFA in drawing from Florida State University, and an MFA in sculpture from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her primary focus is traditional figurative ceramic sculpture and drawing. She is an assistant professor of art in ceramics, sculpture, and drawing at Fitchburg State University.
Andrea Scofield Olmstead