This article originally appeared in Focus/Santa Fe, April/May 2004, written by Wolfgang Mabry.
The Strength of Gentle Beauty
Olga Plam integrates a Russian artistic heritage with American freedom in classical still life.
By Wolfgang Mabry
Several intangibles become apparent when contemplating a still life by Olga Plam. One perceives the confidence of a master, the sensitivity of a strong and gentle soul, and the depth and breadth of aesthetic justice that can only come from extensive training and comprehensive acculturation. Combined with this painter's lifelong artistic passion, dedication and discipline, an alchemy arises and gives a double sense of historicity to her exquisite classical still lifes.
One senses Olga's near reverential regard for the objects she paints, her awareness of the history that resides in the objects themselves. At the same time one feels a personal artistic history worth knowing about in the artist herself. Where does she derive such sublime authority? What is the source of the magnetic visual and emotional appeal in her work?
Born in the late 30's, Olga grew up in the Soviet Union. Her artist mother encouraged her from early childhood to draw and paint and supplemented her school and home instruction with frequent visits to the great museums of Moscow and St. Petersburg. After high school Olga was accepted to study at the Moscow College of Applied Art (formally Stroganoff College), where she earned an MFA degree with Honors. For the next eight years she was junior, then senior graphic designer at the Russian Design Bureau in Moscow.
Plam then accepted the offer of a professorship at the Stroganoff College for the next five years. In 1976 she immigrated to the United States, where she again worked in graphic design and continued to dream of a career in fine art.
By 1992, Plam had done well enough to resume her pursuit of that dream. Bob Vernosa, a painter in the fantasy realism school, led her back into painting, and then she met David Leffel, whom she credits with helping her perfect the classical realism style that she has so brilliantly mastered. The ensuing years have brought this artist to the top tier of classical painters working in America today. In 2003 she was elected to a Signature Membership in the Oil Painters of America.
"I paint practically every day," says Olga in the perfect light of her Colorado studio. "Sometimes in silence, so that there is no competition for my attention, sometimes with a little classical music in the background." Her paintings reflect impeccable training and skill inspired by a gifted and aesthetically astute inner artist. "What I feel," she muses, is admiration for the beauty of things, how they relate in scale, movement, color, value, and texture. They all affect each other like people on the same wave length.