Humans of UWL: Olivia Bull


Olivia Bull. Photo taken by Henry Anderson.

Henry Anderson, Photojournalist

Art, by definition, is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. This is done in art in various ways. Through song, painting, and sculpture would only name a few.  

By appealing to numerous audiences through different mediums, art has the ability to grab the attention of people from all walks of life. Furthermore, as consumers of art, people can connect with the artists who create it as well as people who also have experienced it. Through this connection, people can not only begin to understand how others view specific pieces of art, but also the world at large.  

An artist and student here at UWL that is, through her work, giving people the ability to create that connection amongst themselves is Olivia Bull. 

Bull, a 4th year senior at UWL, found art in her own way. It starts with Bulls’ parents, with her saying, “my parents are creative in different ways. My mom is much more of a writer and my dad has an affinity for hands-on work.” Bull continues by saying, “It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I decided I wanted to major in art.”  

Through art, Bull states, “I love being able to express the human experience.” This sentiment can be reflected in the grant project Bull has been working on over the past year. “This past spring, I got a creativity grant to do my own project,” Bull says. In describing the project Bull said, “I am taking photographs, mostly portraits and abstract photos, printing them, and overlaying them with paint.” 

“With the paint, I am painting different patterns on top of the images themselves,” Bull says. Additionally, Bull says, “I have combined the two mediums that I love the most in a way to create multi-layered narratives and images.” Through this, Bull continues by saying, “I feel it creates a very engaging and colorful experience.”  

However, Bull’s love of “expressing the human experience” through her art is reflected in her second major. Along with majoring in art, with an emphasis on painting and photography, Bull also majors in cultural anthropology, which is the study of how human cultures develop and change.  

“Growing up, my parents and I would travel all around the United States and go to different museums,” says Bull. Bull goes on to say, “My mom was very focused on raising my sisters and I with the holistic understanding of there are lots of different people in the world. From this, I learned that I should respect all these different types of people in order to understand who they are.” 

“Once I figured out what cultural anthropology was, it fit really well into how deeply I love to understand different types of people as well as the social justice aspects of [cultural anthropology],” says Bull. The idea of social justice as an important part of cultural anthropology for Bull reflects on her grant project; with its’ meaning being, according to Bull, as a “narrative on mental health issues.” It is through this that Bull can create a connection between both the art world and the cultural anthropological world. 

Additionally, Bull sees ways to unite the two fields in other ways. “When you think about a [art] gallery, it can be pretty pretentious,” Bull says. In continuation, Bull says, “It is very difficult to get into galleries and most artists who do are white men. I feel I can use my cultural anthropological skills of connecting with people and understanding different backgrounds in order to push to create an art world that is more diverse and understanding of different stories that oppose the popular, white narrative.”  

“To seek out those stories, as someone who has the ability to as a cultural anthropologist, and to work in those galleries, in an art director position, I can put shows together that are inclusive and that bring different kinds of people together,” says Bull. This is something that Bull already does with her current internship at the Pump House Regional Art Center in La Crosse.  

Bull says, “[with the Pump House] we are putting on events this summer that highlight the different communities that exist within La Crosse. One example is the Pump House is bringing Hmong dancers from the local Hmong community and giving them the space to tell their stories.” 

Undoubtedly, Bull has many options for what she can do after school. But no matter what she does Bull guarantees that “if I decide to cultural anthropology or art more than the other, I still want to bring my creative thinking outlook to that space because I think they work really well together.”  

If you are at all interested in her work, Bull will be showcasing the art mentioned in this article in an exhibition titled, “The Intersection of Painting and Photography.” Set to occur from April 18th through the 29th, this exhibition, which will be located on the 3rd floor of the Center of the Arts, is a great time to support a UWL artist and her vision for a connected and knowledgeable world.