Artist StatementAs an artist,I strive in my own way to understand the human condition, the uncontrolled events and our purposeful actions through whatever medium serves to tell the story. I've generated work in mixed media, printmaking and video installations. My interest in diverse cultural interpretation of universal myths is a search for spiritual connections using personal visual references to create mythologies. The “spirit bottles” came after acquiring a Haitian bottle from my friend and artist, William Rhodes, who told me they were placed on altars and used in ritual Voodoo ceremonies. For me, the “spirit bottles” are vessels that distill, reflect and have their own magic. There are multiple meanings in objects and symbols. The spiral constitutes the human soul in a cycle of life that has no end and I use the motif a lot in my work. When I was a child, I was fascinated with picture Bible at my grandparents house. There was a depiction of the “Tower of Babel” that rose from the earth, spiraling towards heaven with bodies being scattered far and wide. It was a strangely thrilling image of chaos and order. . The series of prints were inspired by African people's journey to the "new world", Homer’s Odyssey and Harriet Tubman. Ritual scarification in many African cultures was a rights of passage. The scars from the slave whip were meant to control and demean. Harriet Tubman was born in Bucktown, Maryland on the eastern shores and she suffered whippings on a daily basis from a cruel slave owner. Her dream was to escape to freedom and by following the stars at night,(Drinking Gourd) she led many on the trail north. These works are the latest in a series.
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION 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). Ms. DeVane has been involved in the Baltimore arts community as an exhibitor, curator, educator, and advocate. 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 head of visual arts in the Upper School at McDonogh School in Owings Mills. She explores the personal, historical and spiritual ideas in her work through paintings, printmaking, installations, and sculpture.