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Forces of Nature, Pt. I: Interview between Elaine Hullihen and Olga Ziemska

There are no words powerful enough to express the ways of nature. We have seen her force, the moons widen and earth shift. These two artists, Elaine Hullihen and Olga Ziemska, have surely tapped into her ways for within a landscape their sculptures hold the inner strongholds of human capabilities. Hullihen’s work done in Scotland, entitled I pushed that out there, declares the strength in the artist’s action towards her work and its push into the snow covered earth.  The feat alone is staggering for a woman of Hullihen’s petite stature, yet the interaction between the land and her sculpture was a playful taunt towards a treeless horizon.  Ziemska has also created work that vibrates the energies of Mother Nature with a twist of poetic sentiment.  Ziemska’s gathered willow branches culminated to create Stillness in motion a work installed in Poland.  Her process of creating the work hints to the adolescent chores of gathering kindling, being lost in our senses, picking up pieces of ourselves to be whole again; all within the forces of nature.

Elaine’s Questions for Olga: Answered by Olga

Elaine Hullihen: What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

Olga Ziemska: The most beautiful thing I have ever seen (and I know I will continue to see and am very happy because of this…) is the endless patterns and connections in this universe.  No matter where, when, or for how long I look, the patterns are there to be seen, always unfolding with more information and clues that lead to the next pattern.

"The tree told me so..." by Olga Ziemska, Sand, wood, photos of clouds, silver leaf, magnets, iron filings, mirrors, ink 2005. Installation in the 5,600 square foot Church of St. Lawrence in Klatovy, Czech Republic.

Elaine Hullihen: What is the most important thing you’ve ever seen?

Olga Ziemska: The most important thing I have ever seen is Poland almost every two years since the age of seven. This broadened my view on the world and made me aware from a very young age that things are not always what you are taught in school, read in the newspaper, hear on TV or are told by others. I realized early on it is best to keep an open mind and experience life firsthand for yourself.

"The sound of our hands..."by Olga Ziemska. Plaster, headphones, sound 2009. Hand casts of I-Park artists with individual sounds made by each artist in collaboration with musician, Natalia Mallo.

Elaine Hullihen: Quote: “Every cell in the body holds consciousness” (from somewhere I don’t remember where) What do you think?

Olga Ziemska: For me the answer is of course, and I am sure it would be an of course for the fifty trillion individual cells that make up the community I call my body. Those fifty trillion individual cells collectively form my being, which my consciousness is a part of. I am happy to be their collective voice in word and image at this moment.

Elaine Hullihen: What can art do for the world today? –or- what place does art have in the world today?

Olga Ziemska: I believe that art’s place in the world today is simply to serve as one of the many forms of communication and information exchange that we have for use. I feel that art making and art sharing can help make every person on the planet individually aware of their creative power and potential, which naturally leads to the understanding that if you can imagine it, then it can be. All ideas are developed from observations of the world around us and there are endless numbers of possible combinations to be made and learned from. This truth allows room for all forms of expression and being.

"Stillness in Motion" Olga Ziemska, 2003 locally reclaimed willow branches and wire approximately 69" x 155"

Elaine Hullihen: If the artist statement you wrote today- Let’s say you wrote one today- played a song, what would it sound like? What instruments would we hear? Who is playing those instruments? Same question: wrote a book? Play? Newspaper?

Olga Ziemska: I am going to answer all these possible scenarios at once by saying that if I were going to make a song or sound today; it would sound like an overseas duet played by an American boy and a Polish girl. Each would be playing a large-scale xylophone that was hand-assembled, made from large pieces of driftwood collected from the beaches of Lake Erie and the Baltic Sea. There would be a little girl afloat in the middle, somewhere in the ocean, playing a grass whistle, while floating on her back looking at the sky. They would all periodically change roles and positions and rhythms based on the phases of the moon.

Olga’s Questions for Elaine: Answered by Elaine

Olga Ziemska: What is your earliest creative memory?

Elaine Hullihen: Either making my Barbie into a helicopter by splitting her legs out and flinging her into a tree –Or- playing in the creek behind my house. I used to pick up moss covered stones and make my own house complete with tables, chairs and counter tops.

"A Float A Flicker" performed by Elaine Hullihen, 2009 Photograph by Shannon Sullivan 18 x 24

Olga Ziemska: What piece that you have made are you most connected to and why?

Elaine Hullihen: I feel most connected to whatever I am engaging at the time. With each project I like to immerse myself in that particular inquiry. These inquiries stem from and usually overshadow my former projects. When I wanted to make perfume that was a particular person’s body odor, what I thought about was distilling sweat. Most recently I have been working on a project that deals with personal and social truths. I feel very connected to the idea of empowering others in their own voice. I see so much self-censorship or worse apathy. My hope is that planting seeds for powerful discussion can help. I almost forgot about my sweat experiment.

Olga Ziemska: Describe your working process from idea generation to physical manifestation.

Elaine Hullihen: Idea generation to physical manifestation… what an adventure for an artist right? The idea generation part is completely manic and unstructured. My greatest challenge as an artist is to sort through these ideas and decide what to make. Each idea seems to have so many paths that can be followed endlessly. At a certain point I stop myself and just begin making. This is when things become clear and I find exactly what it is I need to pursue. More often than not this draws me back to the human body and its relation to environment.

"Porcupine Nest Building Exercise," by Elaine Hullihen. Still from video performance

Olga Ziemska: What is the importance of the human body to your work and why?

Elaine Hullihen: I can’t explain why exactly but I am interested in how we, as living beings, interact with the world around us. Many of my projects are costumes, cubbies or small environments that either facilitate or draw attention to how we merge our inner world with the outer world. We experience the world through our bodies and I think it is of great benefit to be aware of that. As well as aware of our bodies. There is a distinct, acute sense that is developed through body awareness that can affect one’s entire perception of the environment. This ties into my interest in yoga- which is an endless inquiry into how our bodies move and react in space. I guess I could say that my art is a conversation between my body, mind and space and yours. And your body, mind and space and the next person’s and so on.

"Architectural Clothing study #1" by Elaine Hullihen, 2008, Scottish Cultural Workshop

Olga Ziemska: List five focus points in your work in five words…

Elaine Hullihen:


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