While few women artists have cracked the art world’s glass ceiling, Gilda Oliver has prevailed within the international art world, as well as within intimate local communities with her unique brand of creativity.
The art world recently reexamined gender bias with guest-editor Maura Reilly crunching the numbers and leading the discussion in the June edition of ARTnews magazine. The statistics reveal that women are featured in a stingy thirty percent of gallery shows, paid roughly 22 percent less than men, and passed over by biased collectors. Reilly also revisited Linda Nochlin’s seminal essay; Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists neatly shifting the conversation towards institutional inequality.
Although Oliver is familiar with the discriminatory tactics of the art world, she has nevertheless made in-roads within what continues to be a good old boys club. Her powerful multi-media painting is launched in cosmopolitan solo shows where critics sing her praise and sales are brisk. Moreover, the artist’s painting, sculpture, and digitally-designed murals, are featured in both art and business publications with in-depth articles in Fine Arts and Modern Painters Magazines, as well as investment magazines like IAIR.
The artist’s practice of including words in pieces like Verse of Honey is meant to provoke unexpected responses and uncover hidden creativity. The painting, picturing a playful cat in iridescent orange tucked inside the artist’s poem, is like an electric jolt of power that expresses her reverence for omnipresent beauty and acknowledges the gift that she carries within her. Verse of Honey, along with the artist’s other recent paintings, is informed by the modern mysticism of Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevich. Each reflects the artist’s belief in the spiritual value of art and emphasizes humanity’s relationship to art and nature. More, Oliver facilitates others in heroically discovering and nurturing their untapped creative impulses.
While Oliver is an artist of international renown, she is also a brilliant cultural animator and an award-winning teacher who recognizes a correlation between academic achievement and a developed creative skill set. Prisms of Color in Outer Space, a 9’ by 25’ mosaic and clay tile mural, is the fourth mega-sized project that the artist digitally-designed as a community project to be pieced together by a rainbow of volunteers. Like her individual work, the artist’s community designs are affirmative in purpose, theme, and symbolism. They stir a communal appreciation within the group and nurture promising creative potential within the individual.
In an era that has often seen art education as non-essential, Oliver has circumvented the traditional paradigm by expanding art education outside of the classroom and into the community with its diverse age groups and cultural identities. Native Americans familiar with the artist’s projects, physically and emotionally challenged children and adults, public classrooms, parents, grandparents, and intrigued sponsors willing to roll up their sleeves, joined forces with the artist to create Prisms of Color in Outer Space. She sees that returning participants arrive with an advanced skill-set, and responds with designs that are slightly more challenging.
Finally, the artist is mesmerized watching the creative process as it unfolds. As the luminescent beads and tiles fall into place, the mosaic appears as an expression of so many souls in creative harmony. She feels drawn into a swirling symphony of beauty. Moreover, Prisms of Color in Outer Space reveals a shift in the artist’s role as a cultural animator. Oliver not only digitally designed, and organized the project; but for the first time, she lent her signature painting style to the group project by painting rays of the sunshine on top of the finished mural. While the artist admits that she lost some of her paint brushes, she loves the way that the it interacts with the rough surface.
Music, with its exquisite nuances, also animates Oliver’s art. The artist is donating Jazz, another whopping 9’ by 25’ mural, to the Reginald Lewis Museum in Baltimore. In Jazz, like Prisms of Color, the artist lends her masterful painting style to the project, painting notes of music on the mosaic. This community project marks another watershed moment for the artist. While Oliver designed her previous community projects for young audiences, Jazz speaks to an adult audience more likely to identify with the artist’s purpose and passion.
Oliver nimbly sidesteps some art world’s isms with group projects that expand art education out into the community and engage the creativity of diverse groups of people. She transcends not only gender boundaries but other barriers as well. Oliver values the creativity of every individual regardless of age, gender, race and ability in her personal work and her community work. Finally, the impressive breadth of Oliver’s skill, her generous spirit, and her creative business sense, point to unlimited creative possibilities within local neighborhoods, as well as the international art world.