By Jennifer Simmz
“Persephone had it right. If you must go, might as well take all of spring with you—”
– Cathy Linh Che, Letters to Doc
In a flourish of color and wild beauty, Emilia Olsen’s work lures us deep into the subconscious unknown – through desert, jungle, or dark lagoon – of a country we innately recognize. Confronting our innermost vulnerabilities and soft points, we traverse deep into the caverns of our soul, the dark shadows of our exposed forms flickering across the walls. Olsen’s faceless maidens, with their pink, sun-kissed flesh, confront their mortality and heartbreak with the age-old symbol of vanitas – a grinning, bleached skull. Much like Persephone dragging the lush flora down with her descent into Hades, Olsen’s subjects embrace the darkest part of their ego within a state of botanic euphoria.
The legend of Persephone is one of many myths that illustrate the life/death/life cycle. It is from this foundation that the trope of Death and The Maiden, an allegorical motif in Renaissance art, arose. In an era of Western history that experienced a high mortality rate, to gaze at the inevitable void and ask its guardian to dance was to extract the fear of time. By yielding to the siren song, one could evaporate into existential ecstasy.
Emilia Olsen’s paintings harken to this theme. The skull and bones present throughout her work are subliminal symbols for the things we have buried, but will continue to haunt us until we exhume them: past hurts, lost loves, future reckonings. Her women, hidden behind veils of hands, hair, and vines, must eventually untwist and cut themselves free from their verdant bindings, dig down into the dirt and pull up the weeds around their heart – or face their end. The juxtaposition of flowering life and withering death creates a seductive contrast, and while fixed in that alluring state of tension, in the inherent grace of the moment, the maidens bloom.
Death and the Maiden exhibition from June 3 – July 29, 2018.
Doppelgänger | Studio
59-33 Linden Street
Ridgewood, NY 11385
To find out more about Emilia Olsen visit: emiliawolsen.com.
For enquiries or to arrange a visit to the exhibition visit: doppelgangerprojects.com.