Our newest addition to Artdose Magazine is See & Discover. This new feature provides you with a glimpse of what artists are doing inside their studios and how they are coping with this pandemic.
We would like to introduce you to Brooklyn-based artist, Heather Olker.
Heather Olker is a Brooklyn-based multimedia artist driven by feminist, psychological and political concerns. She is a Master of Fine Arts graduate from the Photography, Video and Related Media program at the School of Visual Arts, New York, NY, where she was awarded the Alice Beck-Odette scholarship and a full-time assistantship grant.
Heather earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Advertising from DePaul University, Chicago, IL, and has a professional background in applied psychology. In addition, she created three photographic series related to gender, feminism and sexuality during her time as an undergraduate. The last of this series is an intersection of feminism and advertising that has continued through her current practice which encompasses a variety of mediums: photography, video, drawing, collage, installation and performance.
The artist has participated in group shows at Woman Made Gallery, Chicago, IL, and Frank Juarez Gallery, Milwaukee, WI, along with additional group shows at DePaul University and the School of Visual Arts.
Artdose Magazine: What are you currently working on?
Heather Olker: In my pre-quarantine life I spent so much time creating art and working three jobs that I never made time to appropriately market my work. The artistic practice has no room to blossom without marketing, and quarantine has provided an amazing opportunity to catch up in this area. I’ve been spending my recent time searching for exhibition opportunities, applying to those, researching galleries that are on-brand with what I do, looking for artist talk opportunities, writing newsletters to my contacts, and networking with other artists and galleries on Instagram. It is SO MUCH work to market, so I am very thankful for this break to be given an ample opportunity to prioritize it. I also have a commercial photography business, so I have been taking some time to better market my brand there as well and teaching myself about SEO and the power of social media. This week I am starting to work on my teaching applications. I just graduated with my Master of Fine Arts in May! I’m excited to begin this new chapter in life.
AM: During this period when we are spending more time at home, what are you discovering about your studio practice?
HO: I am discovering that, being forced to be at home, and without access to a professional printer, my studio practice has opportunity to be reinvented or improved. To date, I have found my imagery on high fashion social media accounts and newspaper articles online that I then print out and cut by hand. Now, without a printer, it has been nothing but challenging. Luckily I did print a TON of stuff I had on backlog in March, so that kept me busy through the end of April when I was creating new collages every week. I decided to put all my efforts into marketing the art I do currently have during May and June, as there is tons I never marketed and this is keeping me busy full time. Once this marketing-heavy, catch-up-mode emphasis is over, I will return to those professional printing spaces, but it makes me wonder about taking out a loan to be more self-sufficient and buying my own printer. It would have been great to print at home these past two months. All these covid-related changes get me thinking about how I can adapt my artistic practice to survive any type of condition, knowing we will likely be in a similar lock down this fall when flu season ramps up again. I’m discovering I have opportunities to improve and I am beginning to make plans to achieve that by October.
AM: What unexpected sources of inspiration or places have motivated your work?
HO: Times Square, New York. I hate this place now, but when I first moved here it was this place of bright lights and fascination. Coming from Chicago, this space felt alien. It inspired me from a place of skepticism. I saw all the advertisements, observed people’s obsession with this space, and ultimately came across some ads that were misogynistic as I was shooting my “Modern Prayer” series, and it re-ignited my passion around feminist art. Specifically, feminist art and its intersection with media representation. In my time at DePaul University, I created a few series around these topics. Being present in this space unexpectedly redirected my passion, which is an intersection of arts and activism – specifically art, feminism and human rights.
AM: In what ways do you think this time will change how you work in the future?
HO: Quarantine has revealed a real need to have my own independent studio. Prior to quarantine, I was using a shared space at the School of Visual Arts, and now, working at my 600 square-foot home where my husband is also working from home poses challenges. Overhearing his various corporate conference calls puts me back into this corporate version of myself I was trying to leave behind. To make sure my new habits of creation remain, it is obvious to me I need my own dedicated space to work where my creative flow can flourish uninterrupted. This also means we will need to leave New York most likely. It is impossible to afford a dedicated bedroom for a studio let alone an actual separate studio space, as cost is real obstacle and challenge here in NYC. Life is full of catch 22’s. New York is a buzzing place for the arts, but it is simultaneously the hardest place for artists to afford to live.
AM: What are you currently reading?
HO: Sapiens. It has been cool to take a step back into macro concerns and understand the evolution of humans when life was much more simple than today. It also helps me have a greater understanding of the transformation of culture and what things impacted it to be the way it is today. Ultimately, this provides greater insight into my politically driven artwork.
All images courtesy of the artist.