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Cleveland Artist Spotlights
“Nature is defined as anything that’s in our surrounding environment including rocks, trees, plants, and animals, but excluding humans and human creation. This definition is teaching the next generation something that is actually about a massive separation and fragmentation. I think that needs to be relooked at, redefined and corrected.” - Olga Ziemska
Olga Ziemska believes that the definition of nature should include humankind instead of seeing nature and humanity as separate from each other. Why she feels this way makes complete sense if you have ever seen any of her artwork. Ziemska is a public artist and sculptor who lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio. When making art, Ziemska has a tendency to work with natural materials. She does a lot of work in the environment, with much of her work being site specific, meaning that she responds to a given space or area within the natural environment.
One of her pieces called “Stillness in Motion: The Matka Series” is something she created in Poland using willow branches and wire. She then recreated this piece in Korea using wood and bamboo. “It was really interesting to have these two pieces and look at the culture and people and see how our natural environment informed cultural identity right down to the genetics of us”. Ziemska talked about the differences in the works just because of the use of bamboo in Korea instead of branches. The use of bamboo, central to Korea, created an organized front and back in the work while the use of branches and wire created an organized front with a more chaotic back. Matka means mother in Polish, describing this work which is a figure of a woman made out of the natural materials mentioned above.
Ziemska finds joy from traveling the world and seeing what happens when she uses natural materials and places them within the natural environment of a given space. A few years ago, she even received a Fulbright grant to go to Poland, travel around and make site specific work. This allowed her to revisit her roots because though she was born in the United States, her parents and brother are from Poland. She says she was “brought up very Polish” and did not speak English until she was five years old.
This past year has been exciting for her as she worked on and completed the piece, “Dendrite”. This work was installed in December 2013 in the new outdoor plaza at the intersection of Professor Avenue and West 10th Street in the Tremont neighborhood. It has two main components, the first being a two-foot-tall glass-fiber reinforced concrete sculpture depicting a section of a human head in a thoughtful state. The second component is a 16-foot-tall sculptural tree emerging from the head’s flat top. Because of her success, she was featured in the August/September 2013 issue of Fahrenheit Magazine.