The Semi-Finalist periodically sheds light on shows, projects and writing. This is where that happens.
This paragraph is a mountain. Some summit of this idea may be difficult to see at first, less visible as you approach and harder still once you are on it or in it. Imagine its volume as elusive, insurmountable, or even as continuing outside its own margin. It is accurate to say a mountain is an enormous rock formation but it can also be (over an almost inconceivable amount of time) a field of rocks made small- a mountain dissolved. As you travel away to other peaks and paragraphs a similar slow dissolution might occur with these words. Or this implied mountain may fade into a distant grey, like a mountain in mist, memorable mostly between pause and emptiness.
Green Mound in a Green Land
2023, oil on canvas, 16" x 20"
This paragraph is a mound. A mound doesn't long to be a mountain, it invites ascension. As if it, too, was somewhat astonished at its vantage point (being) not merely a minor peak, maybe better understood as an uprising of urgent earth. As if a fossil festered and found itself as a silent Stupa. Its interiority as a reminder- every worthy inspiration begins as a secret concealed. In Oregon we have buttes- a flat-topped tower of rock created by erosion. Imagine, something of such potential substance has been silently revealing itself, slowly stripped away by the wind and water of 20- 30 million years. What else might be revealed one day when we, too, are merely the distant center of someone else's ascent?
2023, oil on canvas, 16" x 20"
This paragraph is a goal post, a soccer net, a tent or any other man-made construction meant to conceal or temporarily house something in motion. Perhaps it is a cat's cradle, a dream catcher or a coastal labyrinth built to contain the frontier-ism of the west that ran out of room to roam. Eventually everything will return to the wind and dark water. But If energy isn't allowed its momentum, it can only turn inwards and implode. For every hundred seeds sewn; hundreds more are lost in the wind. Maybe these words also are never to take root, forever caught in this netting of prose. Perhaps these ideas can be dispersed long unknown distances like seeds carried far by beak, feather and fur.
2023, oil on canvas, 19" x 21"
These are not traditional landscapes, but they are awash with the tradition of landscape painting, landscape writing, even. They, like a Kesey, a Corot, or a Kirkeby, contain an unfathomable idea - the earth will continue without us. Don Olsens' paintings are stereoscopic slides where one frame is the land we thought we understood (owned, perhaps), and the other frame an indifferent infinite existing without concern for the finite. Seen together this evoke mirages, literary decoupages where we are written in and erased out of our own stories. This un-naming is also an inversion of the definition of discovery, asking: what is innate curiosity without the need to dominate what we explore? It is not a question of reverence; it is reverence's question.
These last lines are the few figures that inhabit a painting by Don Olsen. And while the lone explorers of Olsen's are often caught coming in mid-discovery, I believe they are already aware of what feels like a closing statement, "Unhappy is the land that needs a hero" (Galileo). This idea isn't included to erase the steps of The Hero's Journey, rather to remind the reader of that journey's opposite. The Grail Path is a system of inner transformation that is a necessary preface and conclusion of every rewarding expedition. Integration of both births something awe inducing into the mud and into the memory.
- Benjamin Terrell
2023, oil on canvas, 14" x 18"