Galleries : Brooke Olson: Carving her niche
Brooke Olson, who grew up on-Island, hasn't stopped creating art since she began at age four. A classically trained artist (she is currently a student of animation at San Jose State in California) who characterizes herself as a multi-interest artist, her work has evolved from oils to photography, from abstract expressionism to portraiture. Currently, Ms. Olson's attentions have turned to carving a new niche as an artist. She has become a scrimshander - an artist who carves and etches fine, detailed images on mammal teeth, bones, tusks, and antlers to create intricate pictures.
Scrimshaw, an art form practiced for centuries by the Inuit and other native cultures along the Northwest Coast, found a home in New England during the 1800s when sailors on whaling ships created it in their ample spare time.
"It became popular when Dutch sailors began carving whale teeth and bone," explains Ms. Olson. "They missed their wives when they were at sea for months or years at a time, so many of the earlier examples were portraits of the women they had to leave behind."
Exhibiting at Louisa Gould Gallery on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, she will bring the scrimshander's magic to life in a demonstration of her craft this Friday, July 10, from 6 to 8pm.
"Very few people really know how scrimshaw is created," says gallery owner Louisa Gould. "Brooke is generous enough to come here to share her methods and de-mystify this important New England tradition."
Self-taught, Ms. Olson typically works with raw materials that have already been prepped - sanded, shaped and polished. While the materials may vary, the process is the same: "The piece speaks out," Ms. Olson says. "For instance, it can look like a stretch of land. The discolorations [on the base material] can be storm clouds."