Unreal collaboration

Lawrence artists share mutual interests

Sally Piller and Marty Olson are two artists with different techniques but similar goals. Piller favors more traditional approaches to her artwork and travels freely through several stylistic approaches, while Olson is just as likely to compose his art with a computer graphics program and stay solidly fixed in a couple of mediums.

But both share similar influences and are huge fans of each other's work. So it seems only natural that the two Lawrence artists are putting on a joint show.


Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo

Lawrence artists Sally Piller and Marty Olson are having a shared art exhibit during January at Wheatfield's Bakery, 904 Vt.

"Aesthetically, we have a lot in common, from the colors we use to the philosophy we work with," Piller says. "It's interesting to combine a show and see how our work fits together."

"She has a storehouse of knowledge I like to tap into," Olson says. "I take what she tells me and run with it."

Their artwork is on display through Jan. 31 at Wheatfield's Bakery and Cafe, 904 Vt. Piller's show is called "Really Unreal," while Olson's is under the heading " ... If You Can Read This."

When the two artists say it's a joint collaboration, they mean it. Instead of the artists keeping their work separate, they insist that their material be intermingled through the bakery-cafe.

Both parlay their talent into intricate works that demand viewers' attention.

"There are lots of details. It's meant to be looked at close up," Piller says.

And there are also several media on display. Piller's artwork includes wood block prints, etchings, wood cuts of nudes, oil paintings, color wood cuts and assemblage. Also exhibited are her gouache paintings on hemp paper. Gouache refers to a water-based pigment that is luminous and saturating. Medieval manuscripts often featured this form of colorant.

What: "Really Unreal," art by Sally Piller, and "... If You Can Read This," art by Marty OlsonWhen: Through Jan. 31Where: Wheatfield's Bakery and Cafe, 904 Vt.

"It's really a mixed bag of all kinds of things in the show," Piller says. "I like to work with all different materials."

Olson's art focuses on written text within the piece. He's worked extensively with calligraphy and uses lines of it to draw viewers in.

"My work has been evolving over the last decade. It has a lot to do with calligraphy and gesture," Olson says. "The emphasis is on calligraphy, but it's not necessarily accessible. ... The line pulls you through the piece. � It has content but is also abstract."

Piller adds, "His poetry, his calligraphy, is subtly embedded into the work."

To accomplish this feat, Olson employs a combination of Japanese grass script and Western calligraphy.

This willingness to experiment and improvise with their art is one of the similarities the artists share. They also hold common influences, with their work reflecting American Indian art, East Indian images and early Christian art.

Their collaborations have spilled over into areas outside the show. They both work in Piller's home-based studio, and they have merged their talents on a joint greeting card venture. They also have been working on a portfolio of regional printmakers that is due out later this spring.

But they often go their own ways on art projects, too. Piller belongs to an art group that gets together to sketch, while Olson frequently lends his talents to marketing other artists' shows. And their work methods are entirely at odds.

"I've been doing stuff on the computer ... like manipulating photographs and graphics. There's a future in it," Olson says.

"I'm really old-fashioned. I like traditional techniques," Piller says. "But it's an exciting show to see how well we play off each other."


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