PAULINA OLOWSKA (b. 1976, Gdansk, Poland) THE SWAN (AFTER NORMAN PARKINSON FOUNDATION), Oil and acrylic on canvas, 2017, The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, Gift of Barbara ’68 and Theodore ’68 Alfond. 2017.6.58
Paulina Olowska, born in 1976 in Gdansk, Poland moved to the United States when she was nine. Though she only lived in the states for one year, imagery of the everyday had a lasting impression on the artist from the marketing of McDonald’s to the design of Cabbage Patch Kids. When she returned to Poland, she continued to examine the aesthetics that surrounded her, and she became transfixed with underground culture. These interests, developed during her adolescence in the 1980s, continue in her artistic practice as an adult.
Olowska studied the arts in the 1990s and earned her BFA from the School of Art Institute of Chicago, her MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts, Gdansk, and she studied at Rijksakademie, Amsterdam. Over the course of her now, more than 15-year career, the artist questions various art forms and the regeneration of images. This investigation has manifested across media and she describes what she does as “working with the leftovers or dusty aesthetics. They don’t need to be dusty because they’re old, but they’re kind of not really in the center. So minor kinds of aesthetics, and I try to renegotiate them on the platform of art.” The types of “failed” media culture, or “leftovers” as the artist illustrates, evoke nostalgia and challenge notions of what audiences accept as “high” and “low” art. She frequently sources recognizable imagery from industry, popular culture, and fashion while she simultaneously studies themes of consumerism and feminism.