The Art of Frank Olt

Challenges in paint and materials

Frank Olt works with ceramics, but don’t call him a ceramist. He works with traditional materials, but his art is not traditional. The eyes of viewers are drawn toward the bold lines in Mr. Olt’s canvases. These are not his main concern either.
When asked, Mr. Olt said he is most interested in the space that lies between the lines. He’s intrigued by the implied boundaries and the distortion created by lines in his artwork and those found in his surroundings that inspire. Mr. Olt eye is grabbed by shapes and divisions drawn by nature and those created by man—fences, ladders and even tennis court nets. The result is an unusual perspective on landscape that falls firmly in the land of abstract art.


The ambiguous spaces between and among lines are mysterious, Mr. Olt explains. Are they comforting or confining? A fully defined place or a distortion from its surroundings? Not having or providing an answer is part of his artwork. It’s what the viewer brings that may or may not answer the question, he said.

Looking around at the artwork in Mr. Olt’s studio in Oyster Bay, one can’t help but be struck by their utter beauty. He has two distinct ways of working that result in two different bodies of work.

Drawing on his training as a ceramicist, he fuses ceramics onto painted canvases. The glossy surfaces of glazed pottery contrasts with the elegant linen painted with bright colors using encaustic (heated beeswax and colored pigment that cools and affixes to the canvas). The art features lines that speak of flowing strokes of calligraphy. Mr. Olt finishes many compositions with Japanese Sumi brushwork in black ink.

The process and the way the different methods combine keep the abstract painter interested. But it is the areas created when ceramics meet canvas and paint marries with ink that intrigue him and push him to see what can happen next. More than anything, Mr. Olt is ever-restless. What inspires him the most is to see what pushing his own boundaries will lead next.

The fusing of ceramics into a painting is a distinct part of Mr. Olt’s oeuvre. Another series is abstract paintings that bring his interest in ladders, fences and boundary objects to the forefront. The paintings forgo glazed ceramics components and mixed media, and put color created by encaustics and their painted shapes on display.

These days, Mr. Olt is likely to use hot pinks, vivid purples, fire engine red and October orange to make his paintings. He works with wax pigment to obtain a vivid and muted pallet. A series of these paintings are currently on view at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor. His art is part of the two-person show, Dialogue.

He has two distinct ways of working that result in two different bodies of work.

Located in the museum’s Contemporary Gallery, the show juxtaposes Mr. Olt’s colorful abstract paintings with sculpture by French artist Alain Kirili. The artists are friends and both share an intense interest in materials, process, tactility and the continuity of abstract traditions, according to Franklin Hill Perrell, curator at the Nassau County Museum of Art.

Mr. Kirili’s artwork on display was created at the C.W. Post studios, where Mr. Olt is a professor. The show was curated by Elaine Berger, a member of the museum’s Contemporary Collectors Circle.

The show opened on June 7 and continues through September 7. The Main Galleries features the exhibition, Napoleon and Eugenie. The show contains art and artifacts that reflect the Imperial Court of Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie from 1852 to 1870.

Recently, Mr. Olt exhibited his ceramic-fused paintings in a solo show at the Tria Gallery in Chelsea and were part of a group show at the Islip Art Museum in Islip. His mixed media works have also been exhibited in Japan. This year, Mr. Olt’s paintings have been shown at the Lohin-Geduld Gallery in Manhattan and the Lynda Anderson Galleries in Locust Valley.

Mr. Olt began his career by spending three years as artist-in-residence at P.S. 1 in Long Island City. He heads the ceramics department at Long Island University’s C.W. Post Campus.

Dialogue will remain on view through September 7 at the Nassau County Museum of Art, One Museum Drive, Roslyn Harbor. For information, call (516) 484-9337 or visit


pat rogers

Pat Rogers is a freelance writer specializing in arts and culture on Long Island. When not going to art openings or interviewing actors or musicians, she’s looking for the next interesting story.