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Irene Hardwicke Olivieri: in the nature of her art

Irene Hardwick Olivieri was born and raised on the southern tip of Texas near the Rio Grande River. At seventeen she moved to Brazil, and lived as an exchange student in Rio de Janeiro. She studied painting in Mexico and Austin Texas and received a Masters from New York University.

We could characterize Irene’s works as an “artistic forest” with people naked in their majority, plants and animals. A hymn to heaven on earth, but also to the most vivid dreams of the human mind. Through her work, we could almost see the protoplast Adam eating the forbidden fruit by Eve. Her colors vivid in earthy tones, harmoniously combined with the protagonist of all of her colors, the green.

Which are the materials that you use?
  • I like using black india inks on various kinds of paper, rice paper is a favorite. I use watercolors for small paintings and my large paintings are oil on wood. I really like using old wood that already has a history, has been through something. Very old worn wooden doors are especially appealing to me. I like the symbolism of the door, transporting you from one place to another.

Could you describe the place where you work?

  • I work in a room in our house here in central Oregon. It has a red concrete floor and glass sliding doors that open to the high desert where I live. Sagebrush and juniper trees grow all around with a few ponderosa pine trees and many wild animals. The volcanic Cascade mountains are in the distance and have snow on them much of the year.


Besides art, what else do you do?
  • I love to explore the wilderness; study animal and bird behavior and make notes and sketches. I grow flowers, herbs and vegetables and like to make beautiful vegan salads. When I have opportunities to get involved in issues to help wild animals, I do that- sometimes speaking publicly and sometimes making signs for protests- things like that. I make a lot of art out of things I collect while hiking, like bones, porcupine quills, etc. I love reading, poetry, novels, biographies, health and nutrition and natural history.

Who or what influences and inspires you?
  • I’m inspired by and astonished by so many things! Sometimes its something devastating that inspires me like the suffering of immigrants. I often feel helpless reading the news about so many profoundly sad things happening in this world and the only way I can work through it is to paint about it as a kind of tribute honoring others who are in difficulty. I did a painting called “Mercy on the Rio Grande” about the difficulties Mexicans face when trying to come to the US. I’m beginning a drawing about what is going on in Syria and the unspeakable suffering. I’m always inspired by family and relationships and try to find ways to create drawings or paintings as a way of working through things. I am endlessly fascinated by nature: everything! Trees, plants, insects, reptiles, animals, birds, rocks, bones…all find my way into my work.

Mercy on the Rio Grande

What is your favorite piece of your work, in your own collection?
  • A paintings I did about my father after he died, called “Family secrets too heavy to fly”.
Family secrets to heavy to fly

Family secrets to heavy to fly

What is the first artist who comes to your mind?
  • Ralph Fasanella I love how individual and personal his work is and how brave his was to paint about social issues and injustice.
Ralph Fasanella

Ralph Fasanella “Breads and Roses”

A word about your next projects
  • I am working on new paintings about rewilding: becoming closer to the natural world and hopefully inspiring people who see my work to want to protect animals and their habitat, our environment. I’m working on paintings about a family member who are going through difficult times and the painting is like a prayer.

You can see more projects on her site.

Thank you Irene!

Written by: Eleftheria Vonaparti – Translation by: Gretel Athanasiou

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