Meet the Team
Born Agata Oleksiak, in 1978, in industrial Poland, OLEK's art allowed her to leave her gritty, narrow-minded hometown of Silesia. Through colors and conceptual exploration, OLEK's art examines sexuality, feminist ideas, and the evolution of communication, all with meticulous detail and total candor. OLEK consistently pushes the boundaries of fashion, art, crafts, and public art, fluidly combining the sculptural and the fanciful. With the old-fashioned technique of crocheting, she has taken the ephemeral medium of yarn to express everyday occurrences and inspirations, thus creating a metaphor for the complexity and interconnectedness of our bodies and our psychological processes. OLEK's bursts of bright colors often mask political and cultural critiques woven into the fibers of installations, mirroring her respect for artists and writers. She highlights that which already exists in real time, in our environment.
As an active supporter of women's rights, sexual equality, and freedom of expression, OLEK has traveled around the globe for her community-based projects, using the broad appeal of her work to express solidarity with those stifled by oppressive laws. Whether protesting domestic violence in India, highlighting the struggles and hopes of Syrian refugee women in Sweden, fighting for equal rights for the LGBTQ community in Russia, or raising awareness of ocean pollution in Mexico, OLEK’s work explores the sociocultural challenges of our time and hopes to create real change. Her recent work aims to empower women by promoting equality, and her Love Across the USA project is a series of community-based public murals in cities across the U.S. that depict inspiring women from history.
OLEK's sculptures and performances have been exhibited in galleries, museums, and public spaces worldwide, including Art Basel and Wynwood Walls in Miami, the Brooklyn Museum in New York, and The Smithsonian in Washington DC. Her work is included in the permanent collections at URBAN NATION Museum for Contemporary Urban Art in Berlin, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Avesta Art Museum in Avesta, Sweden, and the New York Historical Society, as well as in several private collections, including those of Antonio Banderas and Mike D from the Beastie Boys. OLEK has also completed a number of prestigious artist residency programs from Instituto Sacatar in Brazil to LMCC in New York.
OLEK’s work has been covered in numerous publications, including the Smithsonian Magazine, Creators (VICE), the Huffington Post, The New Yorker, and New York Magazine. OLEK has been named one of the top artist Instagram accounts to follow by Christie’s and Art Net, and Artsy name her as an artist giving knitting a place in art history.
OLEK currently lives and works in Brooklyn.
Kelly Kocinski Trager was Olek’s English teacher in Katowice, Poland a lifetime ago. She told Olek that Poland was not ready for her and encouraged Olek to move to New York City. Six months after Kelly returned to the United States, Olek was at her doorstep. A lifetime later, in addition to being a transactional entertainment, business, and intellectual property lawyer assisting artists, performers and arts-based businesses; working as a professor in the Design Management and Arts and Cultural Management departments at Pratt Institute in New York; and owning Trager Contemporary, a fine art gallery in Charleston, SC, Kelly is Team Olek’s project manager for Love Across the USA . She is also a yoga and gyrotonic teacher, runner, and recovering professional modern dancer.
Christina-Maria Kreibich aka Tina is a self-taught crocheter, knitter and machine knitter based in Philadelphia and has been part of Team Olek since early 2013. It all started with gold ribbon yarn and a skull for Olek's solo show The End Is Far. Since then she has worked on objects of all shapes and sizes - among them a boat and full room in San Francisco, a canoe in Hawaii, a double-decker bus and van in NYC, countless pieces of fruit, people and more skulls (!). And now, as part of the LATUSA team, she shares her love for crochet in workshops across the country. Never held a hook? No problem! Tina will teach you how to connect the loops and probably tell you a story or two.
Whitney Spivey learned to knit and crochet by the age of eight, and she never stopped. In 2013, a few days after moving to the city, she met Olek and, on one of the coldest days ever recorded in New York's history, helped her install a piece called There's No Such Thing as Part Freedom. Since then, she has worked on many of Olek's projects, including a double-decker bus in NYC and an obelisk in Chile. She’s comfortable crocheting in a cherry picker or designing sweaters. Whitney loves teaching the skill she learned from her great aunt so much that she is studying to become an art therapist, with the hope of incorporating crochet into traditional therapy. Her dream is to help others, one stitch at a time. She lives in Brooklyn where she works in an upscale knitting boutique as a teacher, photographer, and graphic designer. She has degrees in art and photography and is currently pursuing a degree in psychology.