Creator Q&A : Alexis Oltmer

April 30, 2020

Does quarantine have you feeling down, up, or all over the place? Let's hear about it! I have taken some time to curate a list of questions for the creators in my life (and those I don't know) to try and curb the reality of this pandemic. I think now is the perfect time to get to know another a bit better, reflect and have some fun.

 

If you would like to participate in the Creator Q&A please email me alexisoltmer@gmail.com I will send you the details and the list of questions.

 

Stay safe, wash your hands & keep on creating

 

-Lex

 

Alexis Oltmer

Environmental Artist

 

@alexisoltmer

alexisoltmer.com

 

 

In a few words state who you are, your occupation and what it is that you create.
My name is Alexis Oltmer, I am a commercial photographer working in Buffalo,NY. When I am not at work, I enjoy creating conceptual bodies of art work which focus on the environment, consumerism, and capitalism. My main mediums include photography, sculpture and performance art.

 

Describe what you see when you look out your window.
I see trees slowly blossoming, birds flying in and out of view, and a beautifully overcast sky.

What is a podcast, book, or song that is keeping you sane?
I am currently reading Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by author and poet Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. I am really enjoying taking the time to dive into this book and having the chance to reflect on stories which shine through to this day via the shared experience. Story telling has a special spot in my soul and reading this book is like the relief from a long exhale.

What is a word that makes you laugh?
Bicycle, spoken slowly and in Italian. It is so much fun to say. I have to say it like 4 times then I usually end up laughing because I am being a weirdo and having fun.

What is the color of your current mood?
Navy. I think I am in a sort of creative hibernation, almost as if my thoughts are suspended in air and are waiting to wake up again.

What is something that brings you joy?
Listening to sounds which can go overlooked and taking the time to walk a little slower on a hike. Breathing deeply and looking up at the tree tops. Now a days, taking a helicopter parent approach to caring for my house plants, arranging my rock collection, funny cat memes and bumble bee butts have brought me a tremendous amount of pure joy.

COVID-19 aside, what frustrates you?
United States Politics frustrate me. The lack of accountability of Industry's leading role in Global Warming frustrates me. The fact that we stole this land from Native Americans, and our government continually makes life as difficult as possible for them, frustrates me. I believe in people & planet over obscene profit. COVID-19 has thrown gasoline on all of the social and economic issues we've always had due to "greed" and its hard to watch greed continue to take a front seat over "we the people" especially during this Pandemic. I am not sure how we educate/sway those in power to choose (meaning allowing us to have basic living standards that are positive, sustainable, safe, and healthy) the 99% over the 1% , as they can't survive without us.

What do you feel most hopeful about?
What brings me hope is the creativity of people. I am excited to see what individuals create and how they inspire others in the future. I hope/think we will see great technological strides regarding agriculture, green energy and plastic pollution. I would really like to see technologies available to all that would help us gauge the safety and quality of our agricultural and house hold water and soil.

How do you define your creative process - what makes you tick, what is your practice?
I am driven by the aspects in my life which bring me both joy and frustration. I like taking the time to focus on situations/subjects in life that could be easily overlooked due to our fast pace culture. An example of this would be plastic pollution. Sometimes it is camouflaged in an environment, or is so small it could be missed by the eye. Most often, once I take over 10 minutes to focus on the hunt for plastic pollution it jumps out at me and continues to do so with every piece I pick up. Bright and uncommon colors begin to catch my eye and find myself being able to collect it for hours at a time, and the collection of pollution becomes almost like meditation. I feel the frustration of the pollution reality pass and find inspiration in understanding the impact or abundance of plastic pollution that I find. contextualizing and curbing my frustration with learned facts. Then I am able to challenge myself to create something I find beautiful,hopeful, or inspirational from a subject that brings me little to no pleasure.

What is something challenging you’ve accomplished or are working on?
Continuing to build my voice and vision as an artist. I struggle with posting on social media as I don’t want it to overwhelm my life. Its a balance as social media is a great form of communication, yet it shouldn’t rule your life and practice. It should be used as a tool to get your ideas and work out into the world. I take breaks from using social media whenever I need too & when I do post I I like to believe I do so in a way that is authentic to me.

Name an artist(s) or creator(s) you draw influence from?
The works of Hilla and Bernd Becher have been a large influence on my work. They were a dynamic photographic duo who photographed post war industrial towns across Europe using large format cameras and self constructed "rules" for taking imagery leading to the creation of the practice of typology. Their subjects included industrial buildings which were abandoned and would be torn down resulting in their "loss" to society. They shot in black and white, waited for the perfect photographic scenarios to create an often gray/low contrast background between the sky and the buildings they photographed in order to keep a consistent background and to allow the buildings to pop and draw attention from a viewers eye. The buildings, background, framing, and exposure guidelines they followed while shooting worked hand in hand when the images were framed and their work came together in a large grid of works. How they displayed their work allowed each image to be visually digested in a way that allowed for multiple varying works with similar qualities in architecture to come together and create a new narrative, almost that of individual frames of a moving image. One can draw comparisons and similarities between the different buildings they photographed creating a visual typology of photographic work. Every time I see their work in person, I am moved inside. The amount of dedication, focus and overall passion for subjects allowed them to create bodies of work which allow the mind to wander in many different ways, while also organizing and creating a simplicity within a complex array of imagery. I find that the process of having guidelines to create work/photograph a subject allows an artist to create an organized balance when portraying multiple photographs aside one another. This creates a duality between individual images and what they hold, and a new larger image that is created with x amount of individual images. I enjoy this as it allows you to view each image and appreciate it as an individual work while at the same time being able to step back to view something completely different. Does this change the meaning, does it allow for further wonder and interpretation? The possibilities are enhanced and at times become more complex. The creation of, play, chance and discovery which comes with the practice of typology and grid work is something that I know I want to continue creating to express ideas and thoughts. 

How has COVID-19 affected you? Have you changed your process during quarantine?
This Pandemic has suspended commissions I had lined up after my recent show at The CEPA Gallery, For Future Generations: A plastic pollution study of Lake Erie. I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to begin the commissions (hopefully before years end). It has postponed indefinitely the community beach clean ups I hold with #plasticfreebuffalo, which really sucks because I miss people, conversations, and a general feeling of progressive togetherness. Mentally I am struggling with not being able to really feel safe going outside and enjoying the aspects of nature that make me feel calm and inspired. I am taking this day by day, trying not to go into a full creative hibernation while at the same time understanding that looking inward and challenging myself to think deeply is really important as well as a good mental exercise. Because I felt this way, I wanted to create a virtual Q&A for other artists and creators to see how they are dealing with this, so they can express and reflect on life during quarantine. Lastly, I’ve taken this time to throw myself full force into a body of work titled Plastic Study that I hadn’t had time to retouch. The way I see it is, any little bit I do to be creative in a day in my own way is a positive step for my practice and mental health.

In your opinion what do you think the “new normal” should look like for our global society?
I think we need to come out of this experience with more compassion and diligence socially and politically. Our government needs to fund a federal stockpile of items which would be needed in the worst case pandemic scenario, and we need to create a national health fund which prepares our country for a health care crisis as we fund and prepare our country for physical war. We need to take big steps to assure that citizens in the United States have access to shelter, nutrition, healthcare and education. I want to see respect given to all workers, a reduction in corporate greed, and lastly I want to see more people vote. I believe it will take a long time to get back to any sort of social normalcy, and I hope that collectively we stay home and safe until a vaccine can be produced.

What do you look forward to most once quarantine restrictions are lessened?

Once we can, I want to go to CoCos with Will and my mentor. I miss spending time drinking wine and reading books at the bar while munching on gluten free pizza. I miss sipping martinis and learning about a life which is fully lived from a mentor who loves and inspires me. I want to have a blow out Buffalo style house party with my friends. I miss great and funny conversation, drunken dancing nights, cheetos on fire and passionately made food from friends I am so lucky to have in my life.

In closing, describe or reflect on an aspect of nature that inspires you.

In the early fall, standing in a forest listening to the sound of wind rustling and making its way through the leaves of the trees.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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