stARTing the conversation

Art by Olivia Ridlon

Art by Olivia Ridlon

It is 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 17. Senior Olivia Ridlon now has only 13 days left to do her final touches on her five-piece painting that will sum up her past four years at UMD.

Jan. 30, at the Tweed Museum, Ridlon’s art will be on display for her senior exhibition, a requirement of all art majors. With this piece being one of the over 40 somethings she has made since coming to Duluth, she hopes to really make a statement.

“It’s been my whole life, for sure,” Ridlon said. “I think it started the first time I made a mess in the kitchen, or really with anything. Now I love making messes with paint.”

Ridlon said she chose UMD as her place to further explore her options with art because of how receptive Duluth is for artists.

As for her future plans, Ridlon will be finishing the remainder of her credits in Sweden this May as part of the art and design program where she will be able to do an independent painting class. After Sweden, she hopes to move to Boston to continue her education.

“I actually don’t want to stop going to school quite yet, once I finish this degree I want to go for a master in library info sciences,” Ridlon said. “I’ve worked in libraries before and it's just such an amazing environment.”

Photo by: Krista Mathes

Photo by: Krista Mathes

Ridlon’s dream is to one day open a bookstore that is also an art store and coffee shop. For now, her focus is on her exhibit.

“It’s so much,” Olivia said of the piece. “It was going to be this one thing and then it morphed into this totally different thing, and now again it’s this totally separate thing.”

Ridlon has many hopes for this piece, but her main focus is to start a conversation, no matter how tricky it may be.  

“As human beings, every single one of us has probably thought about the idea of not living anymore,” Ridlon said. “That is a neutral statement. It doesn’t have to be a depressing statement, it is a universal thing. “

The five separate paintings Olivia will be showing represent her interpretation and individual opinion on the topic of suicide. The paintings are personal and unique and were created not for Ridlon, but for those with questions and who struggle.

“It’s about me, but also not at all,” said Ridlon. “The only thing I can really know is my own experience, but to put that out will maybe in some ways start some thought or conversations with someone I really need to talk to, or that really needs to talk to me.”

Some may view the paintings as controversial or overly explicit and distasteful. Her goal is to normalize the understanding and the conversation surrounding suicide and suicidal thoughts.

“It’s difficult when you talk about things like this,” Ridlon said. “It turns into this thing where people get a little bandwagon-y and wonder how I could condone something like this. I’m not here to condone or raise this kind of action, it’s just that people thinking about it need to know that others shouldn’t be shaming them for it. We need to be there for them.”

Ridlon believes that using art was her best platform for getting her message out in the open. The paintings, while belonging to Ridlon, are truly for their viewers.

“I can’t represent every viewer’s opinion, but I can represent mine and the hope that it will find the people that need it,” Ridlon said. “These are my interpretations of suicide and its effects on me. But the goal of the piece is to reach the people that have issues like mine.”

Something Ridlon wants the viewers to understand is that this art, although dark, represents hope and new possibilities. It was created in hopes of moving the world towards a deeper understanding and a wider acceptance towards those who struggle with suicide.

“I’m just trying to get the point out that this isn’t condoning or praising,” Ridlon said, “it’s just starting the conversation.”

Ridlon’s exhibit will be opening at 4 p.m. on Jan. 30 and will be on display through Feb. 4.


CultureAddie Marzinske