What do field guide illustrators create when given leave of the clarity and correctness their documentary work requires? In the case of Olivia Petrides, the results are abstract, chaotic, tenebrous, and nevertheless evidence of an unshakeable fealty to the natural world. In a series of medium-to-enormous drawings, whose display at OS Projects in Racine, WI, was cut short by the pandemic, Petrides achieves an endlessness of stunning and convulsive detail as overwhelming as are most natural elements when seen up close. Made by repeatedly soaking and sanding paper of ink and gouache, her pictures conjure tidal waves, bodies replete with feathers, wild fur patterns, ancient bark, torrential rains, blinding whiteouts, astonishing auroras. Though their source is the artist’s travels to some of the more primal and remote landscapes of the earth, full of icebergs and volcanoes and geysers, their spirit is far from that of the 19th-century sublime, when humans felt safe enough to terrify themselves in front of nature’s might. This is the 21st, when humans should tremble at their own success in rendering the environment so very vulnerable.
—Lori Waxman 2020-08-15 10:24 AM