Habitat is a new weekly series that visits with artists in their workspaces.
This week’s studio: Olek; Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. “Crocheting is my only weapon,” Olek said as she lit up a hand-rolled cigarette in her studio. “I grew up in a place that was very stingy with possibilities and granted us no eccentricities. I felt like I had to yank up my skirt, expose my bruised knees and bolt the hell out of there.” Olek moved from Poland to New York twelve years ago, balancing a handful of odd jobs (including working as a clown) before pursuing sculpture.
In recent years she has completed a number of major commissions around the world, including a 2012 piece for the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and a recent installation at the famed obelisk in Santiago, Chile: a giant phallic object covered in her signature rainbow crochet, meant to support and draw attention to gay rights and encourage discussion about human rights. “With every piece I create I try to bring awareness to various issues around the world, issues that are important to me,” she said. “It’s disturbing that we still have to fight for fundamental rights today, specifically women’s and gay rights.” What is her aim as an artist? “I want my visual language to transcend the obvious and the expected—rather it should seduce the viewers and lure them into an alternative reality where they can imagine and conjure their own fables with the help of my signature elements,” she said. Below, Olek takes us around her colorful work space, and provides some insights into her process.
ALL PHOTOS: KATHERINE MCMAHON