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"Art is what I do to understand the world and and my place in it."

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Amber Lee Olivier

The Artist

I am a multi-passionate artist. I started college at the University of MN as a Theatre major/Dance minor but left for a more concentrated education in Dublin, Ireland at the Gaiety School of Acting. I went on to study in Reggio Emilia, Italy at ArsComica in commedia d'elle Arte. I have performed as an actress, dancer and singer around Europe from Greece to Northern Ireland, Mexico, and various places in the US.

 

The result: my paintings, masks and sculptures all have a theatricality; there's a story being told in each image. 

I still work as an actress, dancer and singer and am the Artistic Director of Asylum Theatre based in the Twin Cities, MN. Additionally, I have been teaching yoga since 2008, traveling since I got my first passport when I was 17, and have the funniest and objectively most awesome dog, lab-pit mix, Signora Babbling "Brooke." I have a love for nature and all things wild.

Raw Pigment Oil

What is Raw Pigment Oil?

“Raw pigment” is basically a fancy way of saying “natural.” Before oil paint was mass produced in tubes it was meticulously made by the artist (or their apprentice). The basic recipe is ground up colored dirt with a drying oil like linseed, walnut, poppy, etc. The process of making paint is simple, but takes a longer time to dry than our general society has conditioned patience for. Oil paint also has a reputation of being extremely toxic, from back in the early days using pigments like lead and predator snails to today a variety of toxic ingredients for fillers, stabilizers, drying agents, and synthetic color.

 

Working in a non-toxic environment is good enough reason for me to compromise the amount of time it takes to make one raw pigment oil painting. The pigments I use are from quarries predominantly in France, as well as the Blue Ridge Mountains in the USA. I choose to mix the minerals and sands (no lead or snails) with walnut oil. Although walnut oil takes over twice as long to dry as linseed, the more popular oil, it doesn’t yellow over time to the extent linseed oil does.

 

Turpentine is a common oil painter’s ingredient to not only clean brushes but also as a paint thinner. I’ve never used turpentine and never will. I use a soy bean based brush cleaner/paint thinner, no toxic fumes, non-pollutant, non-irritant.

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Papier-mâché

Inspired by Venice

I became interested in papier-mâché sculpting when I was a company member with a theatre company in Chicago, IL that specialized in large scale papier-mâché puppetry. The strength and stability of the puppets we created was surprising to me, nothing like elementary school days of balloons and strips of newspaper covered in flour glue. The art of papier-mâché turned out to have more dimension than my grade school assumption. 

Having done a little research on papier-mâché I learned that the famed Venetian masks were made of paper, glue and plaster, and mask makers in Venice today create masks using the original methods of sculpting a positive sculpture and making a negative mold so the mask shape can be reproduced and then painted. 

The step I remove from my mask making process is creating the negative mold. No face is reproduced, once the positive clay sculpture has been plastered that's it. Beyond masks, the puppets and wall sculptures I create are by nature light weight, light enough to hang on a wall without need for special bracing.