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Artist Feature: Olivia Bain

Creating murals, sculptures and public art opportunities, Olivia does it all

Tell us about yourself and your craft.

I didn’t really understand that I was an artist until I started working seriously with tools in college. Growing up on a hobby farm in Northern Minnesota, my parents would keep my siblings and I busy with productive projects. My parents made creative endeavors common, so I was often playing from my imagination or dreaming up worlds with my sisters and brother. My mom had a disdain for television, especially during the day, so we didn’t spend much time being influenced by it. I haven’t had a TV in my living space for over 8 years, which I think has been a positive for my art production. If I am ever feeling brain dead and don’t want to work on any of my projects, I take out a piece of white paper and start drawing shapes or go for a walk. 

In college, I started as an Early Childhood and Special Education major, as I really enjoy working with kids and especially those whose brains and personalities are unique. It wasn’t the right fit for me though as I didn’t really enjoy working in the public school system. This led to me enrolling in the Minnesota State University Moorhead School of Visual Art. I worked at getting two art degrees, a BFA in Ceramics and a BA in Sculpture because I couldn’t decide which I loved more. I am thankful because I was able to work closely with super brains Kelli Sinner and Chris Walla.

My art practice comes out in a variety of ways. Professionally, I have been focusing on creating more public art opportunities in the Fargo-Moorhead area. I have had my hand in a few outdoor and indoor sculptures, numerous murals, as well as organized a handful of pop up galleries as a platform for other artists to show their work/find community with other artists. In my personal work, I explore materials. Sometimes an idea is first, sometimes I respond to the material, it all depends.

What does your creation process look like?

It depends on what I am working on. My metal sculptures start as a drawing on paper. I bend and weld metal rod to emulate the drawing. Most recently, I have been cutting plexiglass to add color to the sculptures, but in the past I have used fabric, paper, and metal. I often embellish my work with dried seed pods as I enjoy the organic shapes and softness it brings. 

For the murals, I often work with my buddy Hid. We take pictures of the space and then send digital drawings back and forth to figure out the design. We often use recycled or donated paint; there have been times where the color itself decides what we will be painting.

Some days, if I don’t have a deadline or if my brain feels tired, I will work on my living space. I am really influenced by my surroundings so I like to keep a comfy and inspiring work space. This feels like a constant creative outlet.

Who or what inspires you?

When I began exploring my creative process in college, my work revolved around nature, animals and environmental issues because it was what I was familiar with. I was focusing on learning fabrication processes in clay, metal, wood, glass, cement and foam – it all felt very playful and explorative. Toward the end of college, I was fixated on creating spaces or environments for viewers. I am still really interested in this and have plans for future works, post Covid. 

There was also a time when I was really inspired by observing and drawing people, especially if they are doing something with passion. I have sketchbooks full of performers. Trying to capture their energy with my pen was a fun way to experience a live show.

Most recently though, my inspiration comes from observing light and shadows. Light has the ability to capture my attention and move my brain. With my sun sculpture series, I build the drawing from metal and plexiglass and it isn’t complete until I bring the piece into the sun’s light to see the shadow it makes. That is the art for me. I have started exploring having a light source within the sculpture too, so that the piece can be experienced in the dark.

Best and worst thing about being an artist?

The best thing about being an artist is having the various critical thinking skills to work out and process an idea. Being able to build things from my mind is a great freedom.

The worst thing about being an artist for me is pricing my work. I see my work’s value in the creation process. After it is done, that’s that. I would give away the work if I could.  

Tell us something about you (or your art) that most don’t know.

For the last few summers, I have held a Street Meat eating contest with a few of my friends at the local street fair. The winner is the person who eats the most feet of meat. My friend Molly won the last competition with more than a yard of corn dogs!

What does sustainability mean to you?

To me, living sustainably is using as little resources as possible. I have a terrible time with single use items or throwing any type of plastic away. I try to think of how I can use the plastic material in my work so that I don’t have to toss it into the landfill. I haven’t had a car in three years because I really enjoy riding my bike. 

How do you practice sustainability in your process and/or finished projects?

With my mural work, we use as much recycled paint as possible. We frequent the Hazardous Waste Facility in Fargo, which you can really score from sometimes. We have also received donations of house paint from facilities and homeowners cleaning out their closets. 

As I mentioned before, I end up incorporating plastics that can’t be recycled into my sculptural work. I also pick up odd objects at thrift or antique stores to use in my work as another way of recycling.

You can find Olivia creating, hugging dogs, and exploring light on Instagram, here. Or checkout Olivia’s website!