By Viking Voice Staff Writer Kira Wilson
KHS Alumni Maxine Olson is an artist who, inspired by her life in Kingsburg as well as her travels throughout the world, has spread her creativity across the globe.
Olson is a prime example of the artistry which presents itself through the experiences of age. Born and raised in Kingsburg, California, Olson’s artwork has caught the eye of numerous critics of prestige, including Robert Ewing. Life in the small town of Kingsburg inspired her artwork, which in turn will inspire many artists to come.
Olson was born in 1931 to parents of Portuguese ancestry. Her father operated a dairy farm in the country, and her early education took place in Kingsburg schools where she grew up.
She took a break from her education to get married immediately after high school and, twenty years later, she returned from her second marriage to attend Fresno State University. There, she worked her way to a Bachelor of Arts Degree and she earned her degree with the honors of Summa Cum Laude.
Straying from her hometown, she continued to strive for excellence by studying at Los Angeles’ Otis Art Institute. There she earned her Masters of Arts Degree with distinction. After earning advanced degrees, Olson began teaching at Fresno State, College of the Sequoias, and Fresno City, as well as Corcoran State Prison and Institute Allende in Mexico.
Her teaching experience continued in 1986, when she was invited to teach at Georgia State University. This post opened up the opportunity to travel abroad allowing Olson to move beyond the Central Valley. Nevertheless, the Valley had been her first inspiration by exposing her to the personal roles portrayed by women living the small town life.
In fact, in an online biography, Olson stated, “Many of my early paintings have been about women in various stages and ages of life drawn from themes in a small hometown. In the early paintings, I tried to reveal varying degrees of intimacy in a woman's experience.” Her masterpieces reflect the insight gained from her experiences.
Her unique teaching position allowed her to visit Rome, Pompeii, Venice, London, Florence, and Ravena. Olson stated of her adventures, “As an artist, the experiences of traveling in Italy and teaching for the University of Georgia was the most inspirational and transformative years of my life.”
Her experiences teaching in Georgia and travelling abroad would influence her art for years to come, as well as opening new doors to the realm of digital imaging. While at Georgia State, she was introduced to this new medium and was fascinated to discover that one of the only doctoral imaging movement collaborations at the time (2001) was right next door.
She eventually returned to her hometown in 1990, where she broadened her scope on artistic mediums and focused her efforts on the new age of computer imaging, working with other artists exploring the field, such as Dorothy Krause from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Finding her niche, she currently focuses on the technological aspect of two-dimensional art.
Most recently, outside of her visual realm, she has won the Citizen of the Year Award, courtesy of the Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce, and received a standing ovation for her dedication, artistry, and above all, outstanding citizenship. Her name supports the Kingsburg reputation for upstanding character.
By the graces of teaching, Olson has been led down a path to discover her own way of portraying the experiences drawn from both her travels and life in Kingsburg. Along the way, she has left her art to be enjoyed throughout the world, with pieces displayed throughout Italy, as well as designs close to home. Through both her art and her citizenship, Olson remains a steadfast model of Kingsburg character and ingenuity which is why she has earned the recognition of this month’s Viking Valor recipient.