Artist Profile – Allison Olmstead

I once watched Allison Olmstead take scraps of black construction paper, draw what looked like to me random hieroglyphs on them, then cut them out and fold them into a sphere. I stood on a chair across the room, struggling to draw a Pikachu on a giant piece of yellow paper. Before I could even accidentally slice half the tail of my Pikachu off and curse loudly, she had what was basically a paper lantern hanging up in the middle of our cramped room in Hess Hall.
I lived with Allison (or Allllllllllly-son, as I liked to call her, my friends took to calling her Alice) for two years. She would get random ideas in the middle of the night while our clunky air conditioner kept us up; when we got an apartment she kept a huge piece of lime green felt in her room to use as a green screen; she did stop-motion projects just for kicks; she made a light kit out of flood lights from Home Depot; she would stay up for two days straight to work on projects with only soft drinks and macaroni keeping her going; she should have been given an award just for how many things she put in 3D in a semester. Even her careless doodles scribbled on the site of her history notes could outdo some of my most thoughtful attempts.
I would just stare at her, prodding her for information on what kind of creative spirit had so generously kissed the right side of her brain. She would just laugh at me and continue working.
“I have a hard time focusing on any one thing,” Allison says. “I'm doing a printmaking major, but I like to work three-dimensionally, which actually goes against print traditions because usually it’s, 'Hey! I have something I made and it's all flat and stuff,’ and I don't like that at all. I like making something that's flat and turning it into something three-dimensional. I like everything.”
Allison’s interest in three-dimensional work typically spawns from her desire to figure out how things work, even down to figuring out the impossible mechanics of objects in her dreams.

“I got to the hotel, there's a stairway and it’s in the center of the room,” she recalls, “And this has bothered me ever since I had the dream – I don't understand how the staircase fit together or how it worked. Well, it didn't really work because I tried to climb it and it just fell over.”
Thankfully she focuses most of her troubles with mechanics into her actual artwork. It’s probably a good call, considering Allison just won the Lynn Glustoff Award in the 65th Annual Student Art Competition for a teeny printing press she made out of paper.

“I like staring at objects and trying to figure out how they work and how they're put together,” she says. “I work with a lot of objects and mechanics and just figuring out how to make things out of a different medium, but have them look like the actual objects themselves.”
We can only hope she starts taking requests.