Olga Seem Biography

Olga Seem




Olga Seem [a.k.a. Olga S. Kooyman], painter and educator, was born in Los Angeles, California on April 26, 1927. She studied at the University of California Los Angeles where she received her BA in education in 1949 and her MA in 1963. She married Donald K. Kooyman on April 23, 1950, and though she formally changed her surname, she continued to sign and exhibit as Olga Seem. She worked in watercolor, oils, ink, pastel, and color pencil, and exhibited throughout the U.S. and in Japan. Seem taught at numerous colleges in the Los Angeles area, and retired as Professor Emeritus from Los Angeles City College, where she taught painting.

Seem won numerous awards including the Distinguished Woman Artist for 2004 from the Fresno Art Museum; the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Artist Grant in 2002; and the E.D. Foundation Artist Grant in 1989 and 1993. She has had numerous solo exhibitions, including a retrospective at Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles in 1992 and a two-person show, Affinites—Olga Seem and Maritta Tapanainen in 2013. Her work is held in the collection of the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums as well as a number of corporate collections.

While a teaching assistant at the University of California, Olga Seem shared an office with others including Henry Hopkins who owned an Ed Ruscha painting entitled Sweetwater. He apparently paid for the painting in installments and once it was paid for he carried it with him from one position to the next. The large painting faced the office wall and after seeing it for a year in the office, Seem inquired about the ownership of what she thought was an unfinished painting. No one seemed to know the history of the painting and its ownership and she was told by her advisor to take it. She did just that and in 1963 she painted a thick ground of blue enamel paint on the canvas. (This was reported by Gordy Grundy in his article “The Confession of Sweetwater: Who Painted Over Ed Ruscha’s Masterpiece?”)

Olga Seem Kooyman died in Los Angeles on April 24, 2022.

Selected Solo Exhibitions:
2006: "Olga Seem: Botanical Transformation", Couturier Gallery, Los Angeles, California
2003: "Botanical Observations", frumkin/duval gallery, Santa Monica, 
2002: "New Work", frumkin/duval gallery; "Adaptations", LIMN Gallery, San Francisco, 
California; "Up Close", Randall Ericson Contemporary Art, Palm Springs, California
2001: "New Work", frumkin/duval gallery
1999: "Apertures Into Nature: Paintings and Drawings, 1970 - 1997", Fresno Art Museum, 
1998: "Microcosm", Sherry Frumkin Gallery, Santa Monica,
1996: "Recent Work", Sherry Frumkin Gallery
1994: '93, '92, '91, '89: Space Gallery, Los Angeles, California
1992: "Olga Seem: Survey, 1981 - 1991", Jose Drudis-Biada Art Gallery, Mount St. Mary's College, Los Angeles, California
1988: Orlando Gallery, Sherman Oaks, California
1987: Manville Gallery, University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno, Nevada; Cuesta College Art Gallery, San Luis Obispo, California
1986: Goski Gallery, Los Angeles, California
1981: Leonard Heller Memorial Gallery, Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art, Monterey, California
1978: Antelope Valley College Art Gallery, Lancaster, California
1971: Brand Library Art Center Gallery, Glendale, 
California; Orlando Galley, Encino, California

Selected Group Exhibitions:
2022: "Coming Out of the Dark", Avenue 50 Studio, Los Angeles, California

2019: "The Skies Above: Community Art Exhibition", Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles, California
2017, '16, '13, '09: Couturier Gallery, Los Angeles, California
2015: "Body of Water", El Camino College Art Gallery, Torrance,
2008, '95, '94, '92, '91: Space Gallery group shows, Los Angeles; "The Skies Above: Community Art Exhibition", Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles, California
2017, '16, '13, '09: Couturier Gallery, Los Angeles, California
2003: "Contemplation", LewAllen Contemporary, Santa Fe, New Mexico
1997: "California Visions", Gallery Naito, Nagoya, Japan
2000, '96: Sherry Frumkin Gallery, Santa Monica; "Still Life/Still Here", Hunsaker/Schlesinger Fine Art, Santa Monica
1995: "Eloquent Lines", Louis Stern Gallery, Los Angeles, California
1994-'95: "Generation of Mentors" (traveling exhibition, Jose Drudis-Biada Art Gallery, Mount St. Mary's College, Los Angeles, California; Fresno Art Museum, California; and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.)
1994: "Revealing Landscapes", Korean Cultural Center, Upstairs Gallery, Los Angeles, California; "California-5", Yoshida Gallery, Nagoya, Japan; "The World of Cups", Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, California; "Artists of ROC, USA, and Australia", Chung Chen Gallery, National Taiwan Art Education Institute, Taipei
1993: "The Elegant, Irreverent, & Obsessive: Drawing in Southern California" (traveling exhibition), Main Art Gallery, California State University Fullerton; and Dorothy Goldeen Gallery, Santa Monica, California; "L.A. Stories", Jack Rutberg Fine Arts Inc., Los Angeles, California
1983: "Seven", Seaver College Art Gallery, Pepperdine University, Malibu, California
1978: "The Early Sixties at UCLA", Frederick S. Wight Gallery, University of California Los Angeles