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ArtWinter/Spring 2024

Lindsay Olson — Our Once and Future Wetlands: Art, Ecology and Engineering

Calumet Region III
Dixon Waterfowl Refuge



Artist Statement
All around the world, wetlands support a tremendous diversity of plants and wildlife. These ecosystems also improve water quality, reduce erosion, flood damage, and even sequester carbon dioxide. But they continue to be degraded and drained at an alarming rate. Restoring these valuable, often-overlooked ecosystems is the work of The Wetlands Initiative (TWI). As their first artist in residence, I balance my training as a fine artist with what I learn in the field from the TWI staff to create textile art that helps explain these hardworking wetland habitats. From “smart wetlands” designed for farm fields, to reclaiming degraded industrial lands to conserved lands formerly used for a century of intensive agriculture, my textile work highlights the innovative restoration work of TWI.

I drew inspiration from fresh floral collars buried in the tomb of King Tut that have survived for thousands of years. These funeral collars were symbols of life, death and rebirth. The metaphor of a collar can also be seen as a broken circle. We humans have forever interrupted the natural processes of wetlands. Wetland restoration is a way to reverse some of the damage we have caused and return these parcels of land to beautiful, functional wetlands again. My work celebrates restoration successes.


Artist Bio
Lindsay Olson’s artistic practice grows out of an intense curiosity about the ways our society is supported by science and technology. She has worked as Fermi National Accelerator’s first artist in residence, with the CMS experiment at CERN in Switzerland, with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the Field Museum, and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Her work has been shown at the Schingoethe Museum, Zhou Brothers Art Gallery, the Field Museum, and the University of New Hampshire. She is a graduate of Columbia College where she taught for over twenty years. She uses her skills to create innovative textile art to help connect viewers to scientific research and pushes the edge of expression with textile processes.

Special thanks to the board and staff of The Wetlands Initiative for their support, Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online collection and my husband Craig Olson.



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