Long term Baltimore resident Oletha DeVane unveils a brand new exhibition of art. Called Traces of the Spirit, the work describes the soul in spiritual and social context in the medium of materials. Like sculpture and assemblage coming together, the alchemy transmutes a feeling and a sense of aliveness into each wonderful piece. Willing to acknowledge the benefits of living in an artistic community and being supported by those around her, Oletha has been incredibly lucky to be recognised as one of the greats.
Known already for her work titled Saint of My City, DeVane looked at how we give different names to God, tell different stories to describe God, and they all point to the same thing. This universal concept of a creative force inspired a depiction of a black Madonna. Traditionally the Virgin Mary was from the Middle East so it's quite possible she really was dark skinned. Baltimore in Maryland is a Catholic majority so the figure was aptly adopted and turned the artist into an icon herself.
More recently, Oletha DeVane has been inspired by a visit to Thailand. This mystical and deeply spiritual place is predominantly Buddhist. She visited a spirit house graveyard, in which people put model houses made for the spirits of the dead. Being the eager tourist and wanting to take one home, she had to remind herself that the people believed the spirits really did live in their houses. For this reason she decided to take the concept home with her instead.
The creations inspired from this idea have been made with all kinds of material. Each one is used to communicate a feeling or idea in itself. Much like how religious iconography carries the story and moral with the piece, in Oletha DeVane's pieces, the magic of the material is revealed. By linking unrelated and different media together, DeVane is able to craft the likeness of a real spirit with many facets and seemingly independently adjusted parts.
You can read an interview with Oletha DeVane on BMA Stories.
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