Don Olsen – Utah’s Abstract Pioneer

"Thespian" - 1978

"Composition" - 1963

I’ve never really been a pure abstract painter, but I have always loved that style. It’s always a special treat to come across the artwork of one of Utah’s abstract pioneers, Don Olsen. I’ve often spent hours looking at his color and lines. Usually at the Phillips Gallery, Springville Art Center, or the Salt Lake Art Center. Something about his painting makes my eyes sing for joy! “La La La!”

Don Olsen was born in Provo, Utah in 1910. Olsen studied the violin at BYU and graduated with a degree in music in 1935. In the 50’s, Olsen began his career as a professional painter and split his time between Utah and New York so he could study with the first generation Abstract Expressionists. Hans Hofmann specifically, but also Franz Kline, Willem De Kooning, etc. Incredible painters.

"Chelsea VI" - 1980

Don Olsen died in 1983 and I never had the chance to meet him personally, but I did meet his widow, Betty. I was actually able to spend some time in his old studio at their home in Murray, Ut. What a treat! I was honored when Betty gave me a book and some posters that were used for a retrospective at the Salt Lake Arts Center. I’m going to go through my book again right now.. If you haven’t met one of Don Olsen’s paintings yet in person, I hope you’re able to soon.

Spring Art Market 2010

Sugar House Garden Center
1602 East 2100 South
Salt Lake City, UT

Friday, April 30, 1:00 – 7:00 PM
Saturday, May 1, 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM