Art as Revelation: Sculptures and Altars by Wes Olmsted at the Burchfield-Penney

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Art as Revelation: Sculptures and Altars by Wes Olmsted will be on view at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College from January 17 – March 21, 2004. An opening reception will be held on Friday, January 16 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Wes Olmsted (b. 1934) is a Buffalo artist who grew up in the US Army and the travels around Europe that service allowed him. He derives from a German family, with strong national and cultural affiliations. He is also a Catholic, a believer in the revelations of divine spirit in the great works of sculpture and music. While he can not deny the obligations of the spiritual, he still must be aware of the dysfunctional nature of contemporary reality.

"Art as Revelation is the first comprehensive exhibition of the work of Wes Olmsted, one of Western New York's most prolific artists," said Don Metz, associate director and head of public programs at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. "The exhibition includes Olmsted's sculptures, altarpieces and prints reflecting a career that spans half of a century."

Olmsted's largest work is an altarpiece, in the classic three panels, entitled The Temptations of St. Anthony (accepted into the Poetry/Rare Books Collection, University Libraries, SUNY at Buffalo in 1995). The large central panel depicts the horrors mankind has inflicted on itself since 1939 (death camps, mass murder, atomic bombs, agent orange, napalm and the like) while the right panel depicts Gandhi and the spiritual benefits of non-violence and individual volition and the left panel, The Black Madonna, plus the women who have influenced his life. He maintains the vital sense of the spiritual, and the erotic, even though he knows the contemporary world is broken, separated, as it were, from the blessings of the spirit.

His sculptures are all made from parts of machines that are broken; the mechanical world specifies our lives, and even though it has advanced the capacity for work, and also destruction, his vision brings such broken things into new structures, some witty, some delicate, some violent, some passive, some lively with color. Nothing works properly in these constructions, but their dysfunction reaches back to a possible awakening. The act of making itself enacts the spiritual life; and the result is a lovely portrait of his St. Elizabeth, a mechanical, crucified Christ, the dynamic energy of the images in series of prints The Stations of the Cross, or realigned computer parts on a stand.

The altarpieces, sculptures and prints in this exhibition, announce the demands of the passionate, spiritual life contending with the broken parts of the mechanical world, informing them with beauty and with pain, direct, and often, violent confrontation and affirming the welcome chance of the artist to provoke and to proclaim.

On becoming an artist, Olmsted said, in an interview with Dave Sharp, "… I was just trying to find out just who … I was. As a high school jock, I'd just been average, there was nothing there, then I joined the Army, where I really didn't understand anything. So, I couldn't be an athlete. I didn't want to be a Regular Army Serial Number RA 12430759. I didn't want to be an `artist, I wanted to be a sports illustrator. The army had bred in me a hatred of conformity, of the collective — gave me a sense of individuality. In the midst of all that nonsense, I learned how to do that. Ultimately, though, the only thing I could put my interest in was art — fine art."

Additional programming in conjunction with Art as Revelation:

Opening Reception: January 16, 2004 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Lecture by Wes OlmstedJanuary 18, 2004 at 2:00 p.m.

Panel Discussion with Wes Olmsted, Dave Sharp, Victor Shanchuk, Jr., Robert J. Bertholf and Ben Perrone: February 29, 2004 at 2:00 p.m.

Reading by Dave Sharp: March 21, 2004at 2:00 p.m.

About the Burchfield-Penney Art Center

The Burchfield-Penney Art Center is a museum dedicated to the art and vision of Charles E. Burchfield and distinguished artists of Buffalo Niagara and Western New York State. Through its affiliation with Buffalo State College, the museum encourages learning and celebrates our richly creative and diverse community. For more information, call (716) 878-6011 or visit

The Burchfield-Penney Art Center is supported in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and County of Erie. Additional operating support is provided by the Elizabeth Elser Doolittle Trust, the Mary A. H. Rumsey Foundation and the Burchfield-Penney’s members. Support for Art as Revelation: Sculptures and Altars by Wes Olmsted was provided by Mr. and Mrs. Sherlock A. Herrick, Jr. and Mrs. Annette M. Cravens.
Media Contact:
Kathleen Heyworth, Public Relations, Burchfield-Penney Art Center | 7168784529 |