We had the honor of visiting Oletha DeVane at her studio in Ellicott City last weekend, seeing details of final layout for her installation. The work is powerful and Oletha is an extremely generous person. The installation includes sweetgum tiles that are meant to be walked on barefoot, inspired by those who, while trying to escape slavery, had to walk barefoot through areas covered in spiky seedpods.
This upcoming exhibit, Clermont Forum II, will open to the public April 12th, will run until May 31, and will include an artist’s panel on April 26th. This exhibit is curated by the Rotating History Project in partnership with the Clermont Foundation and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
About the Artist
Oletha DeVane is an accomplished multi-media artist who strives to understand the human condition through whatever medium serves to tell the story. She is interested in diverse cultural interpretations of universal myths and the spiritual connections underlying cultures. She derives her inspiration from her faith, Greek mythology, Yoruba religion and biblical references.
DeVane has developed a range of personal visual references to depict the spiritual and historical ideas in her work. For instance, after receiving a Haitian “spirit bottle” from a friend, DeVane distilled and re-interpreted the object to create a unique body of sculptural works that are textually vivid, contextually intriguing and powerful emotional testaments to the ever-evolving development of the human spirit. The Art Museum of the Americas showed these works in an exhibition entitled “Corridor” in 2011.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Oletha DeVane received her B.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art and M.F.A. in painting from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Her first major exhibition was at the Springfield Museum of Art in Massachusetts in 1976. Since then, her work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Maryland and along the East Coast. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture in Baltimore commissioned Ms. DeVane to create a video installation documenting Maryland’s history of lynching in 2003. The piece was inspired by an earlier silent video installation of the same subject at Maryland Art Place (2002).
She has been involved in the Baltimore arts community as an exhibiting artist, curator and educator in the arts. She has served on the board of Maryland Art Place, School 33 visual arts panels and as vice-chairperson of Wide Angle Community Media, a non-profit youth media organization in Baltimore. She was the Program Director for the Maryland State Arts Council’s Individual Artist (1979-92) and Visual Arts programs (1990-92).
An artist and educator, Ms. DeVane, is currently the Director of Tuttle Gallery and the former head of visual arts in the Upper School at McDonogh School in Owings Mills. She was honored in 2007 as a recipient of the Rollins/Luktemeyer Chair for Distinguish Teaching. Ms. DeVane is also a Sondheim Semi Finalist (2011) and exhibited works at the Meyerhoff Gallery at Maryland Institute College of Art.