We had the good fortune of connecting with Olga Lah and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Olga, what makes you happy? Why?
Working as an artist makes me very happy. I am pursuing my wildest dream and it thrills me and brings great fulfillment. It’s meaningful to me to introduce thoughts, experiences and questions into the wider culture. Inevitably there are challenging times but because I feel sure that I am doing exactly what I have been called to do, every struggle or frustration feels significantly part of the purpose. I feel keenly aware that life is brief and so I try to fully engage with my role as an artist and take in every encounter that my career brings. I am grateful that I get to do what I love while connecting with the varied places and people that I come across.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I create large-scale, site-specific installations that use the repetition of commonplace objects. I like using easily accessible and low cost materials. I am interested in the idea of creating an overwhelming experience with simple elements. I take this approach to alter the context of a space by placing unexpected works within urban sites, engaging with spatial dimensions of a gallery, putting vibrant pieces in everyday public areas. I am looking to create an awareness to our surroundings by interrupting how we move within a space. I am inspired by how this relates to the history of modern abstraction—how constructing a psychological experience brings attention to our present consciousness. In this vein, I point to ideas on perspective and remembrance to explore phenomenology or how we experience reality. It’s why so much of my work is transient. I put great importance on the immediacy of an experience and its reverberating impact on memory. In line with platonic thought, I essentially want to express truths about the familiar by uncovering what is transcendent. I am attempting to create a contemporary visual language that speaks about existence.
Much of this exploration is informed by both my studies in Studio Art and Art History as well as Theology. While in school it was never my plan to become an artist but it’s eventually the path I decidedly took when I turned 30. I had no experience in the art world up till then so I committed earnestly to learning. I initially collaborated with friends in local exhibitions. I contacted people who I thought were interesting to speak with and who could offer some insight into how to work as an artist. I accepted almost every opportunity to build installations since so much of my work exists outside of a studio. And I spent a great deal of time on photographing work, building my website, seeing art, reading and researching contemporary art and art historical subjects, sketching ideas and journaling. I learned that writing down ideas for my work is enormously helpful in realizing an installation. Committed writing has also been fundamental in planning and achieving career goals. Most importantly, over the years I have seen that cultivating intuition is integral to my practice. I exercise this through practices like meditation and sitting in silence. Creating a quiet and contemplative studio practice is how I can create large, vivid, sensory-driven works in public.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
In Long Beach where I live: • Tour the murals that POW! WOW! has curated throughout the city over the years • Visit Able ARTS Work gallery to browse and shop works by disabled artists • Eat at Utopia in the heart of the Arts District • Shop at MADE by Millworks, all locally crafted goods and items In Los Angeles: • Visit favorites: Downtown Art Center Gallery and Craft Contemporary • Give the inside tour at the Getty Museum as a former Paintings intern • Tour Korea-town, eat at Myung Dong Kyoja or Seong Buk Dong In Orange County: • Visit favorites: Goldenwest College Art Gallery, Brea Art Gallery and the Irvine Fine Arts Center • Eat at LSXO, a Vietnamese restaurant located inside a California cuisine restaurant, with secret door and all • Hook up with Adventuress Ty (@adventuressTy), a company that organizes group adventures like zip-lining, parasailing, skydiving and more in Southern California and beyond
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Where I am today is because of my husband, John, who always wants me to achieve my highest goals. My sisters, Sandra and Helen, who support me in too many ways to count. My friend-sister, Jin, who has my back and brings the joy. My soul-sister, Mini, who dreams as wide as the universe with me. My dear friend Christine, who has exchanged so many words with me over the years. To my parents, who sacrificed much so that I could thrive in my imaginations.