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.
Having grown up in the humid Florida Panhandle, 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. 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. Nature’s patterns offer an earie backdrop full of textures which I carve into my sculptures.
After becoming a mother, I felt a similar deep-rooted fear and vulnerability for my own children’s safety, wherever danger might come from. However, I also began to recognize a primal fury in myself to protect my children 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. Each sculpture I make requires me to observe and study an animal species. In doing so, I am finding the source of the same elemental animalistic characteristics in myself.
I use charcoal and clay because the material allows me to be aggressive or delicately whimsical. They are humble materials, hard to control, and have been art mediums for thousands of years. Drawing and 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.
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