In her new batch of canvases for the Barbara Davis Gallery, Danish artist Mie Olise sets her sights on the Gowanus Canal — that notorious Brooklyn inlet known more for its Superfund designation that the thriving maritime culture it supported in the late 19th century.
Only blocks from her current studio in Red Hook, the aging waterway is a perfect backdrop for Olise's fantastical wooden ships and twisting metal architecture, visual elements largely inspired by her childhood in a shipbuilding town three hours north of Copenhagen.
"Everything in the canal was displaced by [Hurricane Sandy]. You'd walk by a nd there would be somebody's small boat just floating along side a big tugboat or a barge."
"Everything in the canal was displaced by the storm. You'd walk by and there would be somebody's small boat just floating alongside a big tugboat or a barge."
Olise motioned towards a piece showing an empty canoe floating on the black, polluted water — a snapshot of Gowanus life that would seem spooky were it not for the boat's bright blue color and the orange vest someone left inside it. Like many of her paintings in the exhibit, the postindustrial scene is oddly welcoming.
Other pieces feature impossibly-angled shacks propped up on rusted structural frames that speak to the artist's architecture training and stint with legendary United Kingdom designer Zaha Hadid.
"When I went to London for the 2007 Frieze Fair, there was this buzz about Mie Olise," Barbara Davis recalled.
"She was a finalist in the New Sensations jury show at the Saatchi Gallery, a place that has given us artists like Damien Hirst. I was instantly impressed with Mie's work and had no doubt we had to meet. I look at thousands and thousands of artists.
"But when I see something that moves me like this, I know I have to move on it."
Crystal Bites of Dust runs through March 9 at the Barbara Davis Gallery. See the Olise's website for more images.