interview NANCY GORDON


“I love to see just how much I can experiment with pencil and ask myself, ‘How much texture and experimentation with line and form can I create with this medium?’”
—Meredith Olivari, artist

Artist Meredith Olivari.
Autumn in Motion, 2020
Pencil on paper
Glowing June Peony, 2020
Digital art
Mossbed, 2020
Digital art
Departure, 2020
Pencil on paper
Seafoam Dream, 2021
Digital art
Shell of Inspiration, 2020
Pencil on paper
Scratchy Sea, 2020
Acrylic and colored pencil on wood

Meredith, you’re newly out of art school from the University of Maine in Orono. Your studies combined fine art with theater. How would you describe your education?

In college, I studied scenic arts and prop design in addition to studio art. I was very drawn to theater because it combined all forms of artistic expression—storytelling, music, dance and visual arts. Although I have gravitated toward the visual arts, I very much enjoyed playing with and exploring all of these mediums throughout my education and find that storytelling and narratives have influenced my personal art as a result.

Did you grow up in Maine?

I was born in Rochester, New York, but moved to Castine when I was 1 year old. I grew up in Castine, attended the small elementary school there and then graduated from George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill. The Maine coast and the natural world deeply inspire my work now and always have. My acrylic and colored pencil coastal scenes reflect my connection to home in Maine—a place of serenity, beauty, solitude and wonder.

Morning in Maine, 2020, acrylic and colored pencil on wood

After school you went to live in Maui with your sister. What was your artistic outlet?

I moved to Maui right after graduating college and began working full time as a henna artist drawing henna tattoos in Lahaina. The henna tattoos were freehand and based upon shop designs, as well as custom designs customers would bring in. I drew all styles, from Mehndi to Polynesian. It was a very creative job that allowed for lots of artistic expression.

And once you moved back to Maine?

I really loved drawing henna tattoos in Hawaii, and have just started up my own henna business, Mystic Moonbow Henna, here in Maine. I am available for custom pieces, birthday parties and other events. Hawaii was a gorgeous and very inspiring place to live, its beauty is tied with Maine in my mind.

In Maui, I was also doing mostly abstract pen drawings and some acrylic paintings in my free time, but most of my artistic energy went into my job. It wasn’t until I moved back to Maine at the beginning of the pandemic that I really dove into my own personal artistic practice. During the pandemic, I had the time and space to fully develop my style and create and explore several different projects.

An intriguing statement on your website: “Art merges the external natural world with her [your] internal emotional world to create delicate abstractions.” Please choose a few pieces and explain how this happens.

In my "Expansion Series" and "Gaiascopes Series," the merging of the external natural world and my internal emotional world can be seen and felt.

Ghostly, 2021, digital art

Remembering, 2020, digital art

The "Gaiascopes Series" is meant to represent a dreamlike reality where literal elements such as a face, a hand or rock can be deciphered but are beneath and merged with layers of patterns and textured abstractions. These scenes are almost like mirages. I love experimenting with these scenes and bringing to life images from my dreams, my inner world.

Flying, 2020, pencil on paper

In the "Expansion Series," I merge natural elements such as shells, petals and feathers with the suggestion of movement that is based upon my emotional state of mind at the time of the drawing.

Your website shows work from five series, which began with the "Expansion Series." How does this series reveal forms of emotional expansion and abstraction, which weave their way to new creations?

The original still life:

Expansion Series Still Life, 2020, pencil on paper

The "Expansion Series" is a project that was birthed from a single still-life abstraction. I drew the scene of inanimate objects in a literal style, then decided to play with the composition by creating a series of drawings that incorporated elements such as petals, shells and feathers but abstracted in a way that felt expansive and experimental and even connected to how I was feeling emotionally. I was spending most days alone in my drawing studio and was very inspired by this solitude and time to reflect on my own inner world. I played with form, texture, movement, motion, light and shadow in the drawings, and the compositions I created tended to coincide with the state of my emotional world while working on the drawings. Delicate forms of emotional expansion and abstraction built upon the original elements of the still life began to shape shift and transform into compositions that wove a story of growth, new life, discovery and creation. I worked on the series every day for a week.

Rising, 2020, pencil on paper

After the "Expansion" project I’ve continued to take small objects such as shells and feathers and transform them into abstractions of themselves. Playing with texture, movement, light and shadow are my favorites. I love to see just how much I can experiment with pencil and ask myself, “How much texture and experimentation with line and form can I create with this medium?”

The "Gaiascopes Series" seems to merge photographic images. How did this series come about?

The "Gaiascopes" project was actually inspired by a meditation. I had a candle lit during my meditation, and on the table in front of me a kaleidoscope was sitting. I picked up the kaleidoscope out of curiosity to see what the flame flickering would look like through it, and was so moved by its appearance that I took a video of the scene. I began to take photos through the kaleidoscope itself—up-close photos of plants, flowers, snow, rocks on the beach—and started overlaying them in Photoshop to create dreamy scenes full of texture, colorful patterns and images I had seen in my dreams.

Turquoise Hexagon Sun, 2020, digital art

What do you hope to give people through your art?

I hope that my art can bring people a sense of reflection, introspection, curiosity and peace. I would love to inspire a sense of wonder and an appreciation for the natural world in another person through my work.

Full Moon Bathing Heron, 2020, pencil on paper

Going forward, will you be dedicating your full time to painting?

I am currently painting and drawing part time while working at a bookstore in Castine. I hope to build my art business by continuing to create work, make prints of pieces and hopefully show my work in galleries. As mentioned, I have also started up a henna business that I will continue to promote.

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