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Exclusive interview with sculptor Olek for HUF Magazine issue 52

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” I’m a sculptor, that job has no limitations”

In July 2012, the Albert Einstein Memorial in central Washington DC was yarn bombed by the Polish-born artist Olek. This guerrilla act of creativity was just one loop in her madly creative world of life and art. Today, her crochet wraps reality in a dazzling array of colors, from pinks and purples to yellows and teal.

Not one to sidestep confrontation; Olek (Agata Oleksiak) gave us a peek between the loops of her yarn into a world where wonder meets the reality of social injustice, notions of liberty and equality.

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I grew up in a place that was very stingy with possibilities and granted us no eccentricities. I felt like I had to yank up my skirt, expose my bruised knees and bolt the hell out of there. I was a creative kid who made things constantly, I created things out of air, fantasies and dreams, whatever I could get my hands on. In 2000, my English teacher, Kelly, told me, “Poland is not ready for you. You have to move to NYC.” I escaped from the strict confines of Poland. Everyone at that time was born Catholic, white and only spoke Polish. But I was a stranger to my own people because of my beliefs, my clothes and my philosophy. It wasn’t until I moved to New York City (NYC) that I discovered my home, my spiritual home, where I had the freedom to express myself fully in a cultural dialogue and malleable exchange of ideas. That is why I created the camouflage pattern, to transform the human form into a new species. Once a person enters the crocheted skin, their race, color, ethnicity, and even sexuality become irrelevant, camouflaged; they are transformed into citizens of Olek’s world where these identifiers don’t matter and everyone is free.

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Crocheted homeless shelter, Delhi, India

I’m a sculptor, that job has no limitations. It’s about stretching the canvas to fit the vision. My work is a never-ending crocheted journey, embellished with emotions, memories, experiences, thoughts and insights. Most of all it’s about recording the ephemeral moments of street- and performance art. You see, I hate wastefulness, be it time or commodities. This goes back to when I was growing up in communist Poland. We had very little, so I would save everything that entered my house and turn it into something else. Every morning the milkman would bring bottles. I’d save the tin colored tops, then make Christmas decorations out of a year’s worth of saving. I learned as a kid that if you don’t have something you can always find a way to make it. It was another Christmas, decades later, in 2002, when my love for hooking/crocheting finally enraptured my love life. Romance has taken me through every color of the rainbow: different ages and races, both women and men. I have crocheted them all. After a traditional Polish Christmas supper consisting of pierogies that I slaved over for two days, I went to see a girl I was dating at the time. She was busy working, or perhaps just playing one of those silly mind-games women play. I looked around in her loft and found a stepladder I wanted to transform into a new art piece. Later, I learned it belonged to her ex-husband. It ended up being the first sculpture of mine ever acquired by a collector, in Oliver Kamm/ 5BE Gallery in 2004. I didn’t realize at that moment what I had started on that cold New York night.

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Olek with her crocheted army inside Mark Dean VECA installation, Virginia MOCA 2016

From then on my art and my life became more stitched together day by day. One of the best parts about living in this city is that you can find anything on the street. Not just potential lovers, but furniture as well. I was poor and I had to fill my tiny basement apartment using only items I found on the street. I used …Continue reading our exclusive interview with Olek in HUF Magazine Issue 52

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