If you met Pat Oleszko only briefly, once in your lifetime, you would remember her, probably even through the dementia of your later years. Six feet tall, darkish shoulder length hair, stunning, handsome face with a huge smile. Add another three to six inches on either end with heels or platform shoes, and a scarf wound as a tall turban or other exotic hat creations on her head and you feel as though you are looking up at the Eiffel Tower.
I met Pat in Ann Arbor in the sixties and have been friends since. The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor was a beehive of social and creative enterprise in the sixties. The campus dominated the middle of Ann Arbor, creating a compact nucleus for concerts, street art festivals, and political and cultural dialogs. Concurrent to political and social radicalism and because of this generation’s curiosity, questioning and openness to experiencing change and new phenomena, creative energy was stirring. Tantalizing, experimental contemporary music, film, art, and theatre emerged.
Boundaries were pushed with new approaches for both acoustic and electronic music. Performance art was becoming customary. Unique among them was my friend, Pat Oleszko, a performance artist and MFA University art student who designed and made imaginative and creative costumes for her political or social protest performances.
From Ann Arbor to New York City, all over the United States, to Europe. To South America to Russia, to Czechoslovakia and more, Pat continued her astute art performing on streets, on numerous stages. And paradoxically, on the Vatican Plaza.
Dorothy Valakos’s summation of Pat and her work in the The Alternative is befitting. “A ribald performance artist whose work charms as it disarms using satire, subversion and unabashed silliness. The films and performance show us an Amazonian artist whose body is both the seat of politics and a body of art.”
So, Pat, why do you create?
Why create? Because I can. Because I must.And because a vision demands life.
Art is an action that makes inspiration both solid and ephemeral. Many ideas can’t be said or read. The compulsion to create, enticing an understanding beyond known language must be nurtured or it festers and spoils the well.
Notions create mass, materials force action. Sometimes it is just a wondering that motivates, other times it’s a compulsion. A fecund thought nestles in the craw until it blossoms and is borne full-blown into the whorl/d. You look at it once, maybe twice and not again—before it can call you back. Onward to another. You are inventing language. No time to waste.
My mantra is “I am therefore I art.” Early on, I wanted to make big sculptures but my supports would inevitably collapse. Too humiliated to learn how to weld properly, I started working at home and casting about for armature I realized I was six feet tall and anything I hung on myself would stand up to the challenge. In that eureka moment I became pedestrian art: using the world as a stooge and the body as a platform for notions in motion.This seminal impulse morphed into literally breathing life into the art forum and giving my art a leg to stand on.
My process is to collect and correct. I am plenty busy righting wrongs. I find stuﬀ everywhere: words, pictures, odd materials, objects, and diverse ideas from the lost and profound. It’s all fodder for the muddle. Something puts me in a spin, there’s a tragic thumbnail sketch, maybe the title surfaces—which guarantees its completion—and from there the work compounds wildly until I meet and eat the dread/lion.
I am a Fool. Using absurdity as the norm eases barriers thru humor, subtle-tease and insubordination. Historically and histrionically it references the jester boldly entertaining the king, a shaman exorcising social ills and a showman baldly displaying curiosities rich or foul. Escaping the confines of the predictable gets your game up; you can resonate wildly or flail in a dangerous way. Death by humiliation is always present, never mind that it’s jest ‘artin’ around. If the fools shit, bare it. My intentions are pure, I can do none other and I couldn’t stop if I cried. That’s why I create.
Pat Oleszko is a performance artist working in many disciplines. From the personal to the political, her work is an exorcise through humor. Oleszko has worked from the popular art forms of the street, party, parade, stage, film and burlesque house, to the Museum of Modern Art and Lincoln Center, from Sesame Street Magazine, Playboy, and Art Forum. She has been the recipient of 4 NEA grants, 4 NYFAs, the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim, the DAAD (Berlin) and a Bessie for Sustained Achievement.
For more information, visit Pat's website: http://www.patoleszko.com/#/home?i=277