David Teng Olsen
B.F.A., University of Washington (Seattle); M.A., M.F.A., University of Wisconsin (Madison)
Assistant Professor of Art
New media artist interested in collaborative and interactive experiences using both traditional and experimental visual techniques.
As an undergraduate I spent more than five years studying bioengineering, which has a large influence on my artwork. During my time as a bioengineer I illustrated and designed a bioengineering textbook that is now the required text for bioengineering classes at Stanford, Berkeley, and U.C. Davis, to name a few. The world of science intrigued me very much but I was disenchanted by the compartmentalization of the field and how little there was in the way of freedom to choose the ideas that I wanted to explore. Instead, most of the research went toward developments dictated by modern culture such as obesity and sexual prowess; subjects I was not necessarily excited to research. I came to the conclusion that art would be a better venue to thoroughly explore the science that intrigued me and bring it into a different light.
As a scientific illustrator I was fascinated with the idea that the concepts I was illustrating had never been described before as visual objects. Rather, they only existed conceptually as mathematical formulas and theory. Because of the unique position I was in, the ability to understand the concepts being conveyed and interpreting them as visual objects, I found a vast fountain of inspiration and knowledge from which I could create both paintings, moving images, and sculptures. From simple two- and three-dimensional forms, using a contemporary vernacular, I had the ability to describe these complex theories, believed by many to be the mechanisms of life, into easily distinguished characters and forms that create environments that anyone can explore and see clearly; a diagram that describes many functions of the internal microscopic world that exist in every complex living creature. In my own art I use a combination of new and traditional visual methods to create environments that explore ideas of science and life.
I teach Media Arts and Science courses in the Studio Art Department half of the major, which include 3D and 2D Animation, Digital Imaging, 2D Design, Experimental Video and Interface Design. The classes are an even mix of technical know-how and lectures on contemporary issues involving art and new media.
Beyond teaching and working at Wellesley College I have been actively involved with the electronic arts scene in the Boston area. I have open and active dialogue with the professors and students at MIT, Olin, Brandeis, and MassArt. This includes setting up visiting lectures at Wellesley College and having students participate in visits to these other programs. Non-academic groups have included Boston Cyberarts and Boston Historical Society.
When I am not thinking about or making art I like to travel with my wife to places I have never been, dance and play music with my friends, and watch every movie ever made.