New York artist, Olek detained in U.K.

An Olek installation; it is featured at the top of her Appeal page

On Sunday, December 11th, I, and many other people, got a message on Facebook from the artist, Olek. Famed for her crocheted art, she has recently become very well known for covering the Wall Street Bull and the Astor Place cubes in her signature pink and purple loops. I had friended her a while back and subsequently have shown a video of her Working Woman in Red performance piece in two shows.

In a characteristically bland way, Olek wished us all a happy holiday and also requested that we help her “fight for her freedom.”

Here’s what she wrote

I wish you a great Holiday season this year. I will be spending it in the Crown Court in London fighting for my freedom. here are the details:

I wish I could explain more… but my lawyer gave me an advice not to say too much at this point. I tried everything… public solicitors, US embassy, friends of friends and this is the best solution. To fight it, i need your help. Buck after buck will rescue me from this misery. Pls, consider supporting me…. I do need help from every single person who ever seen my work… to be able to produce even more.

thank you and I do appreciate your help

buzi buzi

ps. do not post it anywhere

Olek’s appeal | Olek needs your help

I had, a few days prior received a similar e-mail but had dismissed it as obvious spam. We’ve all seen those badly written notes from “friends” of ours who suddenly need help. I simply trashed it.

But I have to admit, it stayed on my mind.

It had only been a week since I’d gotten an e-mail from her asking me to hang on to a piece of art she’d had in one of my shows. She asked if I could keep it for “two months” –a request that is not usual at all. Usually artists are eager to have their work back after a show.

I’d found it odd but shrugged it off.

The Facebook message gave me pause. So I wrote to her, not at the address she gave in the FB message, but to the address I regularly use to communicate with her. She told me it was all true. She also said she could not tell me any more details than the suspiciously sketchy ones she supplied on her linked page “Olek’s Appeal”. On that page she supplies a statement that was approved by her attorney.

Here is the statement:

“Olek recently arrived in London in order to fulfill a variety of professional engagements; the first of which was to donate a piece of art work to a charitable organization. On October 6th after donating a piece of her art to the charity at a show in London, Olek was involved in an incident with a drunk and aggressive male who behaved reprehensibly.

The incident happened extremely quickly and not knowing anyone in London or able to access her cell phone for numbers she was swept up into the legal system and treated very poorly. This has resulted in very serious charges being leveled against her which she strenuously denies. She has not even had the chance to state her case before a Court and she must await a statutory timetable before she can present her case properly.

She has now been fortunate enough to be referred on to an appropriate lawyer to defend her against these entirely false allegations, but effective legal representation in cases like this comes at a cost. Today, she needs your help to assist her to get through this terrible and unfair ordeal. At the moment she is facing serious charges with a risk of custody if she is not represented properly and able to expose the untruths and falsehoods in the allegations made against her.”

Worried that if I, myself,  had doubted the validity of this story, others would as well, I wrote back encouraging Olek to reach out to the press. And in order to assure her that I wasn’t just trying to clambor after a scoop, I told her mentioned several other avenues she could take to publish her story. I assured her that by doing so, she could legitimize her story and reach more people and get more support. But she told me that there was a lot I did not understand and that this was impossible right now.

One of the people I’d mentioned to her was Jerry Saltz. I don’t know if this is why Olek wrote to Jerry to ask for his support, but she did and he posted her link. Out of the Jerry Saltz string, came some support when fellow artist, Savanah Spirit shared Olek’s link on her own page, urging support.

Olek commented stating:
“It happened two months ago and I had a public solicitor who put me into bigger troubles. now, i have a proper representation and i need to find money to pay the bills. once i win it, i want to create an emergency grant for artists that actually really works.”

Asked about the American Embassy, she said only that they “said that they will visit me once I am imprisoned. they also told me i can crochet there…”

Olek has become known for the soft-heartedness that is belied by her steely outward demeanor. When some youths in Poland burned some of her artwork, she did not press charges but told them to crochet clothes for the needy. She says that in future she wants to visit prisons and ” teach crocheting with ladies who are trapped there.

Doubters came on board Savannah’s page and voiced their qualms about the artist’s strange story, one of them challenged her to call someone to verify her voice and her situation, so she asked me to call her.

I did and we chatted very briefly via Skype. She was very tired and needed to go to bed but she thanked me very much for making the call and asked me to write on Savanah’s page. So I did.

And now I’ve written here as well.

Stay tuned, Olek has her first court date Dec 22 and has promised to let all her friends, old and new, know what will follow.

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