My work is inspired by special places I find myself in, from my native northern California to the iconic American West, from Spain with its Moorish architecture to the urban gridlock of New York City. The work included in this exhibition is a selection of watercolors and ink on paper, the earliest completed in 1989 and the latest in 2018. The work depicts a life’s journey—both environments and personal relationships—connected in series that transition into new series but nevertheless remain interconnected.

Paintings frequently evolve from a special sense of place and the transformation of environments in my own quirky ways. Sometimes there is a political/ecological subtext, but ever present is the love of paint itself—with layering it, with exploring color relationships, with building textures thick and thin. I have fun with personification as well as improbabilities of scale.  

I was a recipient of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Worldviews Residencyat the World Trade Center in 2001. Paintings while in residence reflect a fabric-like patterns of architecture and gridlock as observed from my studio in Tower 1. The experience of observing NYC from a highly elevated viewpoint is similar to studying an organism under a microscope. My move to NYC from San Francisco inspired a series I refer to as The Aesthetics of Pollution. This theme deals with nature versus the urban assault, gridlock in streams, streams returning to displace streets with extinct or endangered animals—bison pitted against skyscrapers. Works following that residency focuses on the luminosity of the night, complicated spooky images under expressways and improbable geysers and sinkholes on roadways. My latest inspiration is my neighborhood in Brooklyn; specifically, the superb engineering and monumentality of the anchors and suspension of the neighborhood’s architecture. The boundaries between inside and outside spaces become blurred, with images intruding into and overlapping one another—distorted perspectives that arouse intrigue. 

- Olive Ayhens, 2019


Ayhens, a Guggenheim Fellow and grant recipient of both the Joan Mitchell and Pollock-Krasner Foundations, has participated in numerous residencies including Salzburg Kunstlerhaus, (Austria), The MacDowell Colony (Peterborough, NH) and Fundacion Valparaiso (Mojácar, Spain). Ayhens has exhibited widely, including solo exhibitions at the Berkeley Art Center, Lori Bookstein Gallery (NYC), Institute Franco-American (Rennes, France), Roswell Museum and Art Center, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Southern Exposure (San Francisco) and Frederieke Taylor Gallery (NYC).

Click here to download Olive’s full CV.


Olive Ayhens clearly loves to work. Her paintings teem with energy and amazement at the quotidian luminosity of things and with the joy she clearly finds in the making. Free of ideology and the deadly cul-de-sacs of academia, she paints on. Her work is transporting and by virtue of this actually has a chance to change the world, simply because it’s not trying to. She takes you to awe, wonder, curiosity and affection for small things seen up close and large things seen from afar. The aerial view she often employs reveals the big picture, and in the process increases the scale of the viewer.


Hyperallergic Painting the Wilderness of the Imagination

Glasstire Top 5 in Texas  https://glasstire.com/2019/04/18/top-five-april-18-2019/