The East Side Freedom Library exhibits ESSENTIAL WORKERS, an exhibit of visual art honoring Minnesota’s working people by Carolyn Olson with online artist conversation between Carolyn Olson and Keith Christensen.
“The pandemic has provided an opportunity to reconsider our culture’s awareness—and our personal awareness—of the workers who provide the services and goods which we depend upon to make our lives sustainable. Some workers, long disregarded, have been labeled “essential” and have been given new attention. Some have even received hazard pay (for a time) and new respect. But some have also spoken out about feeling “sacrificial,” and some have protested and even struck over their working conditions.
New awareness does not emerge spontaneously. Carolyn Sue Olson’s work opens our hearts and our minds through our eyes. Her work has been informed by a lifetime of painting and teaching art, a lifetime of building connections to community, and her care for her own children. Her daughter has worked in a grocery store during the pandemic, and her son has been a teacher. “Essential workers,” they have felt that complex combination of fear, on the one hand, and new recognition, on the other. These contradictory dynamics infuse the representations of workers in Carolyn’s portraits with both dignity and vulnerability. Looking at her paintings we can feel the energy.”