Olek is a two-spirit person; a child of the witches they did not burn; a failed art critic and a self-taught artist.
All art is a self-portrait. Fear is a cockblocker of dreams. What is coming is better than what is gone. Art is to the spirit what food is to the body and what sex is to the species. Art is what keeps spirit alive. They crochet moments so they will not die.
Art and life are inseparable.
Olek was born Agata Oleksiak, in 1978, in a communist Poland. They grew up in a place that was very stingy with possibilities and granted them no eccentricities. They felt like they had to yank up their skirt, expose their bruised knees and bolt the hell out of there.
Olek graduated from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland with a degree in cultural studies. In New York, they rediscovered their ability to crochet, Holland Cotter described their installation as “a tour-de-force”, and since then they have started their crocheted madness.
Resume sniffers may be pleased to know Olek's work has been exhibited in galleries, museums (Avesta Museum, Sweden; The Brooklyn Museum; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Netherlands; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; the Urban Nation Museum, Germany; Fluctuart Museum, Paris) and public spaces worldwide and featured in numerous publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, TIME Magazine, Vogue Italia, Newsweek / Daily Beast, Village Voice, Vibe Magazine, Artinfo, PBS, CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC. They are the recipient of the In Situ Artaq award (France) in 2011, and a grant in 2011 from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) for performance in public spaces, a Han Nefken award, a USArtists International grant supporting performing arts at international festivals, and an Awesome Without Borders Grant (2016), and drag a tail of dance performance sets and costumes too numerous to mention.
Olek received the Ruth Mellon Award for Sculpture, was selected for the residency program at Sculpture Space, twice at Instituto Sacatar in Brazil, Lower East Side Rotating Studio Program in NYC, LMCC in NYC, Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, Villa Alliv in Marseille, France and for 2020, Mattress Factory, Pittsburg. They are a winner of apex art gallery's commercial competition. Olek was an artist in an independent collective exhibition, Waterways, during the 49th Venice Biennale and a featured artist in Two Continents Beyond, at the 9th International Istanbul Biennale.
Their community-based work and activism have made them a highly sought-after guest lecturer and speaker. Olek has spoken to students from Pratt, Parsons, and Syracuse Universities and at various Art Academies around the world. In 2014, they gave their first TEDx Warsaw Poland. Olek’s crocheted adventure, embellished with emotions, memories, experiences, thoughts, and insights was a subject of a documentary “YARN”.
They have been named one of the top artist Instagram accounts to follow by Christie’s and Art Net, and Artsy named them as an artist giving knitting a place in art history.
Olek themselves records the ephemeral moments of street- and performance art and can be found in their Brooklyn studio with a bottle of spiced Polish vodka and a hand-rolled cigarette aggressively re-weaving the world as they see fit.
You can explore more of Olek's work by visiting their website:
www.damniwishihadyou.com or their Instagram page: @OlekNYC.