Join an online conversation with Blacksburg-based artist Martha Olson, whose work is currently on view as part of the Moss Arts Center’s summer exhibition, “Roots, Reeds, and Vines: The Art of Basketry.” Olson shares the creative inspirations and techniques that bring her mixed-media vessels to life during the free lunchtime talk on Friday, June 25.

Moderated by Meggin Hicklin, Moss Arts Center exhibitions program manager, this 45-minute Zoom discussion with Olson is the latest installment of the center’s online series, “In the Moment: Artists and Their Work.”

This talk is free, but registration is required. Find registration information on the Moss Arts Center website.

Using deconstructed rag rug strands and coiling techniques, Olson weaves her creations out of humble materials—paper grocery bags, old rag rug, scrap fabric, found rocks, and beads.

According to her, these materials “…flow in and out of women's lives, some having little importance and [which are] taken for granted, while other materials hold stories of shared generations.”

The fragments of rag rug used in Olson’s works on view in “Roots, Reeds, and Vines: The Art of Basketry” are from old Swedish rugs woven by Olson’s mother-in-law, a subtle reference to not only generational histories but to the beauty and value of women’s work. Her works seem ancient and wizened with a few select and almost hidden embedded treasures — Ethiopian trading beads, African jade and turquoise, or found stones — a hint of the exotic hidden in the commonplace.

This relaxed-looking, unstructured basket by artists Martha Olson is brown and beige-colored with accents of red and turquoise. It was made with rag rug and found stones.
Martha Olson's work "Tvattkvinna," 2019, is featured in the Moss Arts Center's current exhibition and is composed of rag rug and found stones, 7 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches. Photo courtesy of Martha Olson.

Participants will learn more about Olson’s studio practice, which she describes as euphoric, expansive, and challenging. “It is like a dance that swirls in and out, combining images with color and movement to form my creations,” she said.

In the Moment: Artists and Their Work” provides an opportunity to meet notable creators of Southwest Virginia — from visual artists to theater-makers to choreographers — and learn more about their creative processes in this unusual time. This series of 45-minute chats gives an exclusive look inside the homes and studios of the artists, providing a chance to experience their work, ask questions, and discuss how creative luminaries are approaching art in this moment.

From the traditions of South Carolina seagrass and Appalachian basketry to innovative and intriguing contemporary forms, “Roots, Reeds, and Vines: The Art of Basketry” celebrates the work of Olson and 11 other artists whose creativity and technical skill come together in these objects of beauty and fascination.

Always free and open to the public, the Moss Arts Center galleries are open on Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Those who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks in indoor settings. “Roots, Reeds, and Vines: The Art of Basketry” is on view through Aug. 28, 2021. 

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