Photographs by Dean Kaufman.
Growing up in harshly cold, gray Ruda Slaska, Poland, Agata Oleksiak (now known solely as Olek) took creative refuge in colorful crafts, making bright Barbie clothes and the occasional crocheted hat. But it wasn’t until 2002, after moving to Greenpoint and teaching herself English by watching subtitled movies, that she picked up a crochet hook at the dollar store and her former hobby erupted into an obsession. Now an established artist—she’ll show at the Smithsonian in 2012—the 33-year-old Olek covers everything from mundane household objects to public sculptures to people in her loopy yarn confections. See someone riding the subway in a head-to-toe crocheted bodysuit? Chances are, he’s Olek’s latest canvas. Her largest installation to date is a fifteen-by-fourteen-foot studio apartment, wherein every wall, picture frame, television, and toilet is wrapped in its own custom sweater. Originally stitched in Olek’s own Park Slope apartment, the crocheted mini-universe is currently exhibiting at Christopher Henry Gallery in Nolita, where it will remain until May 28. The gallery’s assistant director, Jason LeBlond, confirms what you might have speculated about Olek, who is rarely spotted not wearing a crocheted cardigan or collar: “There is no separation between her art and her life.”