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Revitalized, Rachel Oliver

Artist statement:

The show Revitalized contains six works that represent my diverse interests in various cultures and theoretical debates, as well as issues related to mental health and identity. The term “revitalized” derived from the challenge of bringing imaginary characters and philosophical ideas to life via images. When I first began, the initial goal of the show was to distance myself from the chaotic world and escape into my imagination and creativity. As the works progressed, the artwork was more representational of what I loved in the real world: diversity, nature, and the human mind. Thus, Revitalized changed from bringing imaginative characters to life to be about reviving personal appreciation for the world. 

Rachel Oliver headshot

Although some pieces are lighter-hearted than others, each piece embraces the need to appreciate diversity. For example, my works Morning Bus and Troublesome Goblins reference various traditions, and folklore from around the world. Morning Bus represents how all people are connected despite their various backgrounds. In the painting, five figures share the same space, connected by the same bus experience, but each figure is vastly different in culture and the story they tell. Both Name? and Façade of Ice and Stone showcase different abilities, one physical and one mental. Façade of Ice and Stone embraces different mental states and appreciates moments of weakness and sadness, while Name? and Morning Bus have depictions of different physical disabilities. Thus, the show acknowledges diversity across all human life, not just race nor culture.

All pieces have various layers of meaning. For example, Façade of Ice and Stone speaks about expectations of strength and mental health but can also be tied to dementia. The piece was partially inspired by a play called Cracked: new light on dementia. Troublesome goblins are based on the Greek Kallikantzaroi, which are goblins who cause mischief during the 12 days of Christmas. However, Troublesome Goblins also explores how one defines objects. Definitions can be too inclusive or exclusive, and the goblins are struggling to determine which thing is the “cat” in the goblin’s hands. Thus, I strongly encourage the audience to find a meaning that is most significant to them, rather than thinking there is a correct way to look at any of my pieces.

The show also investigates texture in some form. Successfully portraying three-dimensional texture with two-dimensional mediums is difficult and challenged my abilities. The work Name? involves a combination of implied textures such as a knitted sweater on tree bark, as well as using the impressions of real fall leaves to develop the background. Other works, like Theseus’ Ship (1) & (2), bring forth philosophical concepts with real texture by cutting and reassembling the paper. Theseus’ Ship (1) & (2) explores identity and what it means to be original. In the end, the work views the combination of the copy and the original drawn pieces as one complete work despite the difference in paper. Morning Bus utilizes a more painterly style and applying thick paint to develop real texture in the foreground. But the masks are highlighted by their attention to detail and realism in contrast to the abstracted background.

Overall, Revitalized fortifies the beauty of diversity: diverse traditions, thoughts, or abilities, through painted/drawn images. The journey of this show has been a rollercoaster, but rather than getting lost in a fantasy world, I painted/drew figures inspired by stories the real world gave me. Each piece I finished rekindled a personal hope and love for the future. Therefore, Revitalized revived my appreciation of the stories and ideas the real world provides and aims to do the same for the viewer.