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From Ceramics Now 2024:

Peter Olson began his artistic career as a photographer in the ‘70s, founding the punk rock magazine New Sound and working as a street, sports, and commercial photographer. Fusing his original photographs with ancient forms, Olson invented a style of ceramic narrative storytelling in the tradition of ancient Greek vessels. But the figures populating Olson’s ceramic works are not gods and goddesses—they are neighbors, community members, and average people on the street. Olson transfers his photographs of people and design elements onto wheel-thrown vessels, then meticulously colors each element by hand, firing each piece up to ten times to achieve the elegant appearance of finely painted Sévres porcelain.

Olson’s Marked for Life series, now on view at Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica, California, shows people’s bodies covered in tattoos—a perfect parallel for Olson’s own practice of decorating his ceramic forms. The portraits in this series were all taken on location in Olson’s native Philadelphia, and each ceramic work becomes a kind of memorial to its subject. Their images are combined with elaborate decorative designs made from an amalgamation of vintage illustrations of the human corpus, and decorative motifs from art museums and ancient manuscripts, to create kaleidoscopic imagery celebrating the temporality of our bodies, and the endurance of our legacies.

From Cfile:

Peter Olson has for the last several years harmonized photography and ceramics, two mediums that have forced their way into fine art. As bands of imagery spin around the thrown and assembled ceramic garnitures, there is a feeling that time is passing, history is revealing itself, a story is being told. There is mystery as the story itself is unclear. This triptych(not shown) has his spindle form, the kind of shapes made on the lathe for centuries and which became the inspiration in 1880’s for Theodoor Colenbrander’s visionary lidded jars in Holland with surface painting that anticipated Modernism. Olson is a trained professional photographer but when making art moonlights as a street photographer, informed by daily life and cultural and religious objects. He is the fields most inventive and inspired master of fired decals (a 17th century innovation) infusing them with the passion for his subjects and magical, kinetic banding. 

From Arts and Antiques Magazine:

Peter Olson is a Philadelphia-based photographer and a self taught ceramicist who makes pieces using an innovative hybrid process. He transfers ink from photographic prints onto the surface of a wheel-thrown pot, and when the clay is fired in the kiln, the iron oxide in the ink leaves a permanent image behind, baked in. 

Olson’s works generally follow forms from Classical and pre-modern European art history, and his pursuit of ceramics as an art medium grew out of visits he made to various museums. The photographs he imprints on his ceramics are all taken by him—“There’s nothing on them that hasn’t gone through my camera,” he says. 

The piece shown here (not shown here), number 8 in a series titled “Relics of Times Square,” is a contemporary take on the traditional Catholic concept of the reliquary. Instead of sacred remains, it preserves the likenesses of passersby who caught Olson’s eye in midtown Manhattan and whom he photographed. The Gothic architectural elements in which the figures are placed are from an altarpiece Olson photographed in the Art Institute of Chicago. The heads that ring the rims at the top of the vessel are photographs of ancient Greek and Roman and Neoclassical sculptures that Olson made at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the British Museum in London. 

The photo-illustrations wrap all the way around the ceramics, covering the entire surface (including the interiors), so that the imagery cannot all be appreciated at once. For this reason Olson calls his pieces “cylindrical worlds”.

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