The Nautical Americana Paintings of Skot Olsen
by George Petros

From a show catalog

In Skot Olsen’s nautical Americana paintings, we see monster squid emerge from inky depths to pull down whaling ships. Sea serpents swim alongside serene schooners, and a steamship’s paddlewheels struggle against the pull of giant tentacles. Ocean nightmares crash like waves onto black rocks.

Craggy men aboard leaky harpoon boats chase giant whales. Old salts tell unbelievable tales for the umpteenth time. A sailor shows off his backpiece tattoo of deep-sea doom. An aging captain tells of the giant octopus that engulfed his vessel. They and other sea-faring souls populate Olsen’s pantheon of forgotten individuals who conquered the oceans. Some now sleep in Davy Jones’ Locker, others in overgrown cemeteries. Olsen presents portraits of them as if he painted from cooperative sitting ghosts.

First they were cartoons—ridiculous, hilarious explosions of insanity. Their heads wobbled, their eyes bulged, like the classic creeps from Mad magazine and Garbage Pail Kids and the acid-inspired monstrosities doodled on notebooks.

Then they were real people. Their eyes gleamed, their lips glistened. Storm-etched wisdom covered their faces. They had stories to share.

Their resurrection occurred at the tip of Olsen’s magic paintbrush. He captures the lost souls of a lost era. Folklore and fantasy combine into a living stew of maritime madness. Tattoos and visions tell tales of heroism and helplessness in an eternally hostile environment. Lavishly-wrought water laps; sun-beaten wood, painstakingly detailed, creaks and moans. Fabulous cloudy skies enshroud. Crazy cartoon characters morph into beautiful portraits of vanished ancestors. Part memorial, part pop, the paintings show human interference with marine life amidst nature’s foreboding splendor.

Wars between man and monster call for extraordinary individuals rendered obsolete by victory, and the artist conjures up the finest specimens. Immortalized, they remind us that life should be an adventure, and that all adventures eventually end. They also remind us that their creator, Skot Olsen, ranks among the admiralty of low-brow high rollers!