“Art for Jobs presented a simple idea: here’s a wall, go nuts. Which I did, and I haven’t looked back.”

In anticipation of Art for Jobs 2017, we are excited to announce that Meredith Olinger will once again be contributing her artwork to the show!

Last year, Meredith Olinger was one of the featured artists at our annual fundraiser, Art for Jobs. Advance had recently acquired a 24,000 sq. foot warehouse and now had the opportunity to try some new things. Meredith  was simultaneously trying out some new methods in her studio. She began painting the walls of her studio and after a few conversations with Kate Lareau, head of Art for Jobs at the time, they decided to present the idea of artist walls to a few other artists that would be contributing artwork to the show. They ended up with 8′ x 8′ walls that were made in the warehouse by Mike Shaw, Advance’s Program Manager, and Walter Brown, Work Life and GED graduate, as a new way of displaying the artists’ work. The artists had total freedom with the walls and could choose to paint the whole wall, part of the wall, or use it to hang their artwork.

Meredith decided to paint the whole wall, a method she had begun experimenting with in her studio. The result was a spectacular piece of artwork on display at Art for Jobs, as well as a transformation of Meredith’s work as she began to shift from canvas to wall. The following is her story. We cannot wait to she what she has to share with us this year!

“I work primarily on the wall. This hasn’t always been the case. For a long time, I worked on a traditional canvas, or in sculpture. However, I was always experimenting with new formats and ways of displaying my work; nothing ever felt right.

In the spring of 2016, in a complete act of boredom, I doodled on the wall of my studio. The doodle soon took over the entire studio. I liked what I saw, so I posted it on Instagram, not thinking much of it. I was soon contacted by Kate Lareau, who was planning and executing Advance Memphis’s upcoming show, Art for Jobs.  She had had an idea for the show: what if artists were given entire walls on which to display their work or, even better, on which to create new work? We started hashing out this idea, and this plan became a reality. Artists were given a wall in which to create whatever they want. Some simply displayed a gallery wall of their work, some made large scale paintings, others created a backdrop for their small-scale work. Every artist approached it differently.

My wall was 8’ x 8’. I didn’t realize that that wall would change the trajectory of my work completely. I think I finished that 8’ x 8’ wall in a week. Which is crazy, considering the size, but working that large felt so natural for me.

Meredith’s Artist Wall at Art for Jobs 2016

After I completed this wall, I quickly started taking over the walls of my studio. I stopped making small scale work. The studio became the work. I drew on the wall, painted on the wall, and applied my own wallpaper to the wall.  It was new and exciting; I was no longer making a window for the viewer to look into, I was creating a space for the viewer to walk into. I had stepped from the safe world of painting into the wonky world of installation.

Meredith’s work on the walls of her studio

    

For my graduate thesis exhibition, I knew I had to go big or go home. I also knew that I would have a whole new set of challenges: how was I to take my work out of the studio and into the gallery? I decided I needed to build a space, despite my mediocre carpentry skills. I had three months to make 3 pieces that were 12’ long, and I had to build the walls on which they would be displayed. The Advance Memphis graduates did such a great job on the Art for Jobs’ walls; I thought maybe they could help me out again. I commissioned 9, 4’ x 8’ walls. This way, they could be moved in and out of the gallery relatively easily, but then could be pieced together to create the appearance of a seamless wall. Again, Advance Memphis was crucial for my artistic development. 

 

 Meredith’s Graduate Thesis