Tuesday, August 3, 2021

B&O Street Art Project


                                                        Artist Spotlight: Joshua Olsen

Hailing from Long Island, New York, Joshua Olsen is an artist and grad student at MICA here in Baltimore. For the B&O Street Art project, Joshua collaborated with classmate Kenneth Clemons, who shares his passion for comic book-style art. For Joshua, the opportunity to safely paint on a train car simply couldn't be passed up. 

Joshua's early artistic inclinations were expressed mostly as doodles, and it was only when he started taking art classes in community college that he began to focus on art more seriously. Now a full-time artist, Joshua is both an active student and teacher of art. Joshua's background is in animation, digital, and studio art. His interest in street art stems from a combination of watching YouTube street artists with admiration, and from his participation in MICA's Community Arts program, of which street art is an integral part. To Joshua, what distinguishes street art from other art forms is its ability to "be seen by people who aren't looking for it." Whether people see a piece as they walk down the street, or take a picture in front of a mural and post it on social media, Joshua feels that street art "travels further than studio-based art," a seemingly unintentional nod to the theme and language of transportationone that speaks to the deeper connections between trains and street art. 

When asked what he thinks is the significance of displaying street art at the B&O Railroad Museum in particular, Joshua explains that it can help garner new audiences and increase the Museum's appeal among those who may not think that a train museum is for them, citing millennials as an example. And to those who may not approve of street art or view it as a legitimate artform, Joshua urges against the promotion of stereotypes, speaking to the many street artists who are genuinely trying "to beautify something...or to touch an area." 

To execute on his and Kenneth's shared vision for a comic book-style mural, the two artists began to think of "elements and components" that they felt symbolized both the city of Baltimore and the Street Art Project's theme of connectedness. After Kenneth sketched the outline for the piece with the help of digital projection, the two artists started considering their color choices, determining together which colors to put where and in what order. From there, the piece required numerous "touch-up sessions." 

Joshua and Kenneth share a common appreciation for what Joshua calls "comic book stuff, cartoons, probably things more associated with...younger audiences." Joshua believes that both he and Kenneth combine elements of fine art and illustration in their work, and that they both tend to incorporate a sense of narrative into their pieces as well. The harmony with which these two talented artists created their comic book-style mural is abundantly clear to anyone who's seen the piece in person.  Joshua hopes that the primary takeaway from his piece for visitors  is an understanding of "the broadness of what street art is."

Follow Joshua on Instagram @josholsen138_art

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