The spunk and spirit that is 35-year-old Susan Marie Olmetti is freed from her fingertips — and the confines of bipolar disorder — to spill onto canvas and dance in vivid color before viewers’ eyes. The frenetic energy she extends through her works over the last ten years has attracted widespread international attention to her abstract artistry and transformed into a healing tool for the intense woman.
International newspaper editors at Canada's Globe and Mail and magazine editors at Today's Chicago Women have been drawn to Olmetti and her creations. She is also listed in Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide.
After her birth in Chicago on April 9, 1973, Olmetti struggled through her earliest years in the school system, to ultimately abandon the academic environment with the equivalent of an eighth grade education.
Rather than detail her life’s trials, Olmetti communicates her story of the winding course of her life in the intense delineation of the darkest of lines in her art abstraction. She was fascinated by the stories of the homeless, and she took to the streets of New York.
At age 28, she headed back to school and completed her GED, and she then moved on to New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) along with residency at the Hotel Chelsea. After a quick semester and a half, Olmetti moved her passion for fashion education to the streets, leaving her studies at FIT when she couldn’t gather what the educators were sowing. Olmetti describes fashion as “evolutionary and revolutionary, because it starts in the streets.”
Upon finding herself in 1999 in a hub of the art world, Olmetti discovered her talent and drew inspiration from the flamboyant personalities and eclectic characters inhabiting the niches within and without the Hotel Chelsea.
Olmetti herself is a complex patchwork — in one corner, through her abstract art she demonstrates an aged sophistication and tremendous skill in creating intricate art abstraction. She conceives caricatures from everyday life — an object, a person — transforming a negative thought into a positive one. The resulting pieces produce a primitive feel, with vibrant colors breathing life into intricate honey-combed weaves — all produced without formal training.
In another, her persona reveals a young woman adrift, grasping onto faith as her anchor and the divine derived from God. Olmetti gives of herself without reservation or seeking in kind.
In yet another, she is able to patently disregard others’ critical judgment and continue moving forward.
Still another finds Olmetti involved in philanthropy. She is driven by her spirit to advocate for children and adults with bipolar disorder. It is her drive that also moved her in 2005 to create a lasting tribute in memory of her father, Joseph Michael Olmetti, by setting up the Joseph Michael Olmetti Memorial Fund for lung cancer research at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Her activity has also resulted in being designated an honorary member of the Stonewall Veterans — a leading organization in support of LGBT rights.
Delving into Olmetti’s past through conversation invariably draws out a handful of names — people who determined that the talent and character of the artist was noteworthy and invested in her by hosting her works in galleries and restaurants.
The first of these benefactors to be noted was the Thomas Gathman Gallery of Chicago who provided a solo, one-woman show, despite members of the art community who expressed they felt her work too bohemian and literally locked the doors of the gallery to deter her from her display. Doors opened, the hundreds who descended on the showing provided positive affirmation and reception of Olmetti’s creations, but she removed the canvases after a single night.
Interwoven in Olmetti’s success is her relationship with Chicago restauranteur Jerry Kleiner, who has chosen her art to adorn the walls in several of his eclectic restaurants around town. In interviews, Kleiner has spoken about designing the interior décor of his eateries before the menu selections, so incorporating Olmetti’s art is an indication of the value he places on it.
Chicago’s Cook County Treasurer of Maria Pappas helped springboard Olmetti with a show in her Chicago offices. Pappas was so enamored of Olmetti’s work that she has become a collector and displays the works in her office.
In her nude art, she bares her body as though laying bare her soul and revealing the provocative side of herself. Selections of her works have been featured in U.K.-published, “When Fletcher And Haye Met.” In her drawings, her paintings avoid the physical form in keeping with her spiritual desire to keep her art pure.
Despite the challenges bipolar poses, Olmetti has organized and achieved one-woman showing and gallery assignment through her own singular efforts. By any accomplished artists’ standards, Olmetti’s successes warrant recognition on their own merits. As usual, she’s currently working on a book of nudes series of herself scheduled for publication in late 2009. She is also working on the Jonah series to exhibit in the summer of 2009 in New York.
Susan Olmetti's Biography was written by writer Melanie Aaron, with thanks.