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Work samples


About Oletha

Howard County

Oletha DeVane's picture
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.   As a multidisciplinary artist, her social, political and spiritual concerns are the content of her art practice.  Her first major exhibition was at the Springfield Museum of Art in Massachusetts in 1976. Since then, she has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions locally and internationally. The... more

Oletha DeVane

From The Realm of Dust

Across painting, printmaking, sculpture, video, mosaic, and mixed media works ranging from tiny and intimate objects to monumental panels, DeVane’s creative sensibilities leave no stone unturned in her quest to communicate her vision of the painful and troubled specificities of black American history side by side with her embrace of a pan-spiritual relationship to the divine. In the fabrication of her intricate and totemic sculptures, DeVane embodies the modularity and tactility of Constantin Brancusi, the additive processes and reach to verticality of David Smith, and the dazzling juxtaposition of materials of Mickalene Thomas. 

Her work reflects an awareness of global artistic practices and a strategic use of American craft sensibilities that is situated within her profound roots in the local Baltimore creative community. She is part of a newly recognized generation of artists whose work explodes the narrow, constricted narrative of modernist art to make way for a more inclusive awareness of the pluralities and richness of American contemporary artistic production.

- Christopher Bedford


"From the Realm of Dust" is a series of mixed media works about the human condition and our relationship to realms beyond us.  The creation of large-scale figural representation of mythological and religious entities personifies universal concepts and are identified as Avatars.

Examples of the goddesses in this series are those like MAWU, a deity represented in "Mawu-Moon Goddess, who is worshiped in coastal West Africa by the Fon.  She is seen as a creator and is associated with the moon.  

The piece "Dumballa" represents a deity in the African-based religion of Vodou in Haiti. He takes the form of a snake and is an agent of fertility.

"Erzulie" is the Haitian goddess of love and power. She is invoked as a symbol of female courage, desirability and strength, and symbolizes the ideal mother.

"The Lote Tree" marks the boundary where no soul is allowed to pass any further. Archangel Gabriel guards the passage. In Islamic lore, the Lote Tree marks the utmost boundary  through which no one can pass. It is the tree that the Prophet Mohammed encountered at the climax of his legendary nocturnal ascent to heaven.  This important number recurs in the seven earths and seven underworlds that pervade many philosophical traditions. The mystical writings of Baha’u’llah, founder of the Baha’is faith, defines the wayfarer's journey as The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys.

In the Greek myth "Dog Star", Sirius-Asteria scorched the Minoan Islands from the sky and was thought to have brought about the destruction of mankind. By doing so , he was responsible for saving the lives of the rest.

Several of these pieces synchronize spiritual beliefs represented in a myriad of cultures.

  • Mawu-Moon Goddess

    Year: 2019 ○ Material: wood, acrylic, glass, beads, rope, resin on wood panel ○ Dimensions: 54" x 36" x 1.5" ○○ MAWU is a deity worshiped in coastal West Africa by the Fon. She is seen as a creator and is associated with the moon.
  • Sirius-Asteria

    Year: 2020 ○ Material: glass, fabric, acrylic, wood, paper ○ Dimensions: 54" x 36" x 1.5" ○○ Greek myth "Dog Star" Sirius-Asteria scorched the Minoan Islands from the sky and was thought to have brought about the destruction of mankind. By so doing, he was responsible for saving the lives of the rest.
  • Whatever happened to Icarus?

    avatar, assemblage
    Year: 2020 ○ Material: acrylic, glass chips, rope, ceramic, wood, plastics ○ Dimensions: 56" x 34" x 1.5" In Whatever Happened to Icarus?, the son of Dadaelus of Greek mythology is seen in sequence spinning down to earth, his wings having been destroyed by the sun’s heat. The presence below scornfully observes the presumptions of Icarus to transcend his natural state as he falls to the sea.
  • The Garden of the Heart

    avatar, assemblage
    Title: Garden of the Heart ○ Year: 2020
  • The Lote Tree

    avatar, assemblage
    Year: 2020 ○ Material: beads, ceramic, fabric, glass, wood ○ Dimensions: 56" x 34" x 1.5 " ○ ○ The lote tree marks the boundary where no soul is allowed to pass any further. Archangel Gabriel guards the passage. In Islamic lore, the Lote Tree marks the utmost boundary through which no one can pass. It is the tree that the Prophet Mohammed encountered at the climax of his legendary nocturnal ascent to heaven. This important number recurs in the seven earths and seven underworlds that pervade many philosophical traditions.
  • Dumballa

    Avatar, assemblage
    Year: 2018 ○ Material: acrylic on panel, glass, beads, resin, crystals, clay, wood, fabric, metal ○ Dimensions: 53" x 30" x 3"
  • Epiphany

    avatar, assemblage
    Year: 2018 ○ Material: wood, glass, acrylic paint, bones, plastics ○ Dimensions: 52"x 30"x 3.5"
  • Subsumed by Whiteness

    Avatar, assemblage
    An avatar representing the challenge of the black body encased in whiteness, shielded by bullets, facing death, and reaching transcendence.
  • Installation View ○ Mamawata (left) | Dumballa (center) | Erzulie (right)

    avatars, spirit assemblage
    In African and African diaspora traditions, Mama Wata is the mother of oceans/water. She is sometimes associated with mermaids, or sirens, who can tempt sailors off course and to their demises. Her mythos is deeply rooted in the coastal regional stories of Nigeria, Zambia, and Thailand, and thus represents a global presence. Dumballa is a deity in the African-based religion of Voudu in Haiti. He takes the form of a snake and is an agent of fertility. Erzulie, the Haitian goddess of love and power.
  • The Lote Tree (UMBC exhibition) 2022

    avatars, assemblage
    The Lote Tree: One of several works in the 2022 Retrospective Exhibition: Spectrum of Light and Spirit at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC)

Public Art

Public art moves us from within, moves us in its legacy and gives us a conduit to reimagine the world. This is a body of work that promotes the recovery of a collected past meant to elicit a deeper understanding and fuller perspective to the history of the United States.

The ‘Memorial to those Enslaved and Freed’ in Owings Mills, MD is a multi-part memorial created to establish as clearly as possible the relationship between John McDonogh’s wealth and the institution of slavery. Such a relationship needs to be understood on multiple levels.  On the broadest level, slavery was interwoven socially, politically, and especially economically in the development of the United States during McDonogh’s life. More specifically, McDonogh’s circumstances placed him at the center, rather than on the periphery, of this system.

The bust of the public monument is cast from molds I designed as I reimagined the faces of enslaved individuals connected to John McDonogh. More fully, the sculpture pays homage to hundreds of people who labored as slaves on McDonogh’s estates in Louisiana. The names are found on a granite water-wall flanked by seating space for those who come to reflect on its history. The Memorial to Those Enslaved and Freed is meant to make the lives of Black people who were enslaved by John McDonogh visible. The people whose names are on the wall were laborers, teachers, ministers, healers, farmers, and children who we now know and acknowledge. They were part of the nation’s wealth-building and will no longer be silenced. 

The memorial represents the collective journey to embrace the contributions and the lives of many individuals—their achievement, resistance, and spiritual resilience came at a high cost in the moral darkness of America.  Full consideration was also given to the plants surrounding the memorial, where sweet gum trees and herbal flowers were planted.  Two plaques detail the history of Black and Brown people connected to McDonogh’s plantations and the voyages they embarked to return to Africa by way of Virginia.

The piece entitled ‘Robert and Rosetta’ realizes an invariable history of Baltimore’s Lexington Market to show how the market was used, and more specifically, the people who had been assertively noticed on its grounds during the relegated times of slavery. I followed a vision that prioritized reflection and reclamation of space using ornamental forged metal and cut design.

‘Robert & Rosetta’ reveals the stories of two modest, yet notable individuals who seismically shift the idea behind ‘exchanging goods’ in Lexington Market. In recognizing Rosetta, and her counterpart Robert, my team wanted to cue onlookers, in a very approachable way, with two granite ground flagstones etched with newspaper articles from the Baltimore Sun (1838) and the American Commercial & Daily Advertiser (1833). The oversized pavers mimic granite stand-markers that still line the curbs in the area today to challenge how public space had been used throughout the United States, and unassumingly, is indicated in the history of Lexington Market.


Spirit Sculptures

The principal catalyst for the emergence of DeVane’s spirit sculptures was a gift she received of an ornate Haitian bottle from a fellow artist, William Rhodes. Artists throughout the African diaspora of the Americas have been actively exploring how to reclaim the aesthetic agency of their traditional African heritages in the aftermath of the horrors of the Middle Passage, slavery in the Americas, and the relentless assaults of racism into present time. These diasporic artists are continually studying, researching, and seeking ways and means to reconnect with the traditions, culture, religions, and belief systems of their motherland.

The bottle gifted to DeVane embodies characteristics reflective of similar bottles as described by Robert Farris Thompson in his seminal study Flash of the Spirit as: ingenious reformulations of (Kongo) nkisi charms, sometimes called pacquets- congo.... The more elegant pacquets are wrapped in silk instead of ancestral cotton or raffia cloth; are tied with broad silk ribbons (secured with pins) instead of cord; are adorned with sequins as well as beads; and sometimes crowned with plumes made of metallic cloth instead of actual feathers. These charms are containers—usually constructed from old bottles—that become a body or vessel to house a spirit, into which “medicines” are inserted to create protections from evil or to stimulate the presence of the “flash of the spirit.” Rhodes’ gift initiated a period of deep contemplation and artistic inspiration for DeVane, inspiring her sculptural series.

The surfaces of the bottles, vessels, containers, and totems of DeVane’s sculptures are always festooned and riddled—literally, figuratively, and symbolically—with clustered embellishments and layered elements of ordinary, mundane, sometimes even boring materials that by themselves would be simply unremarkable. Within DeVane’s psyche, combined with her technical prowess for assemblage, she remembers and reimagines found, castoff materials. These works are conceived by the technique of bricolage with which she leverages the use of available materials. Those materials fuel and load her sculptures with symbolic signifiers of intangible and often uncontrollable, inexplicable forces, which include the crucial dynamics of being human and coexisting with otherworldly beings. She explains how “[t]he spirit sculptures emerged as a concept to harness blessings and explore the intuitive, irrational, or unconscious phenomena.” DeVane’s artistic vision radiates the presence of life forces in the world, in present time or beyond— to otherworldly spaces where gods, spirits, and ancestors reside. In Songs of Orpheus (2008), for example, a bottle form is covered with a beaded netting, with dangling beads at the neck and the base of the sculpture. A clay head is affixed to the top facing upward, as Orpheus sings his rapturous songs to otherworldly gods. Sprouting from the head is a wired, beaded headdress alluding to the harmonic and arresting sounds of his songs. The cumulative effect of combining fragmented objects that still embody energies from a functional past life transforms her sculptures into icons of power, authority, and beauty.

- Dr. Leslie King Hammond


  • Spirit Sculpture Installation

    spirit sculpture
    Spirit Sculptures”—elaborately assemblaged glass bottles, which are prominently featured in this exhibition are intended as altar offerings for various orishas/loas. These ordinary beverage bottles are transformed by the application of sequins, fabric and beads.
  • Woman Who Married a Snake

    spirit sculpture
    Woman Who Married a Snake ○ 2017 ○ glass, metal, beads, plastics, mirrors, pebbles) ○ 26" x 9" x 9" ○ ○ Ayida-Weddo is a fertility spirit and she is known as the Rainbow Serpent. Her story originates in Benin and Haitian lore.
  • Spring

    spirit sculpture
    Seasonal celebration of life
  • Fall from Grace

    spirit sculpture
    2013 ○ glass, wax, beads, bones and plastic ○ “Fall From Grace, which features a beaded skull atop a repurposed bottle and glowing orb, combines religious vocabulary with contemporary concerns. Serpents wind around the glass bottle, and a splayed ribcage of bone-like fans sprout from just beneath the skull. A few words are hand-written on the bone-like appendages—”lust,” “deviant,” “wanton”—that allude to the sins of the flesh that have scandalized churches and the religious right. Even powerful people entrusted with the divine light aren’t free of human sin.”
  • Transcend

    spirit sculpture
    Transcend ○ 2022
  • Medieval

    spirit sculpture
    Medieval ○ 2017 ○ 23" x 9" x 6" ○ glass, red feathers, wire, fabric, plastic, wood, beads ○○ Medieval represents the Dark Ages of our times with the angels on either side are protective spirits. It's colors are the trickster.
  • Orisha

    spirit sculpture
    Orisha ○ 2017 ○ 38" x 10"x 11" ○ wood, clay, sequin fabric, glass, beads
  • Protector

    spirit sculpture
    Protector (nkisi figure) ○ 2012 ○ 26" x 8"x 3" ○ ceramic, beads, plastic, wood
  • Samuel's Dream

    spirit sculpture
    Samuel’s Dream ○ 2012 ○ wood, resin, glass, clay, glass beads, metal wire, fabric, turquoise, acrylic paint ○ Collection Homewood Museum, Johns Hopkins University ○○. In this work references to a passage from the book of Samuel in the Old Testament of the Bible, which describes how Samuel was called to his spiritual mission by God in a dream. While making this piece, I thought of a spirited young man I met who was battling a drug addiction. He was one of eight people who lost their lives in a New Orleans warehouse fire where he fell asleep.
  • Elegba/Dumballa

    spirit sculpture
    Elegba (Dumballa) ○ 2008 ○ glass beads, shells, clay, fabric., metal , clay, plastic, wood ○○ Cross-references Dumballa[h], the Haitian loa who is a benevolent father figure, with Elegba, the Yoruba, who can be seen variously as, as messenger, the guardian of the crossroads and the trickster. This juxtaposition is created more from the place of poetry personifying the relationship between Dumballah and Elegba through the symbology of the snake.


DeVane began as a painter-printmaker—creating beautiful, often haunting imagery of dense landscapes that evoked scenarios and longings of struggle, a sense of being, place, liberation, and freedom. Her aesthetic is deeply affected by W.E.B DuBois’ concept of “double consciousness”—living simultaneously in a black and white world—or what Paul Gilroy has described as “the processes of cultural mutation and restless (dis)continuity” given the biases of Western canons and the benign recognition of the confluences of African diasporic aesthetic practices.

The life of an artist is in many ways about a very personal journey in the discovery of a sense of self in relationship to the world in which she lives. What becomes of that adventure—its discoveries, revelations, epiphanies, tragedies, and triumphs— are revealed as one seeks to find meaning from “uncontrolled events.” The struggle to survive, protect, and prevail hopefully yields lessons or wisdoms from the knowledge accumulated via those experiences and that are then imparted to the creation of an artistic vision.

- Dr. Leslie King-Hammond

  • Sweetgum and Harriet

    solar etching
    Sweetgum and Harriet ○ 2017 ○ solar etching ○○ Sweetgum tree/ balls reference Kate Clifford Larson’s book “Bound for the Promise Land”. Larson describes sweet gum balls as, “… large, round, balls covered with spiny, burrs. They litter the forest floor sometimes inches deep, nature’s bed of nails…” Those seedpods, once the medicine with aromatic therapeutic fragrance to the slaves;... would then, “pierce the calloused, unprotected feet of terrified runaway slaves. The seeds from the sweet gum tree would be among the first obstacles on the road to freedom.”
  • Harriet in sweetgum

    solar etching
    Harriet in Sweetgum tree ○ 22" x 36" ○ solar etching ○ 2018
  • Minty

    solar print
    Minty ○ 2017 ○ solar etching of young Harriet Tubman in Sweet gum tree ○ 16" x 22"
  • Starmap

    van dyke print
    Star map ○ 22" x 30" ○ 2010 ○ Harriet Tubman series (works on paper) ○ Van dyke and burnt marks on rives paper
  • Drinking gourd

    cyanotype print
    Drinking Gourd (from H.Tubman series) ○ 2010 ○ 22" x 30" ○ cyanotype, wood, fabric, sequins, acrylic
  • Oracle

    solar print
    Oracle ○ 22" x 30"
  • An American story

    solar etching
    An American Story ○ 2009 solar etching using found and archival images ○ The soldier is from WWI; the woman circa 1860's and photos of cotton pickers.
  • Garden

    Garden ○ 2015 ○ Encaustic. ○ 54"(length) x 4.5 ft (width)
  • Call to Freedom

    solar print
    Call to Freedom ○ nine solar etchings ○ 99"(h) x 66"(w) ○○ The raven represents Harriet Tubman while the sweet gum balls are large round, seedpods covered with spiny, burrs. Nature’s "bed of nails piercing the calloused, unprotected feet of terrified runaway slaves. The sweet gum tree would be among the first obstacles on the road to freedom.”
  • Sugarcane Blues

    solar print
    Sugarcane Blues ○ 2020 solar/digital etching on Rives paper ○ 22" x 30"


Oletha DeVane can be counted among a distinguished roster of artists, including Betye Saar, Howardena Pindell, Joyce J. Scott, Renée Stout, and Vanessa German, who each in their own way have engaged in an art- making process that Linda Goode-Bryant and Marcy S. Philips once described as encapsulating “energy, mysticism, automatism, and ritual process.” Working in media as various as painting, sculpture, collage, assemblage, and object-making and performance, they tell their personal stories in the context of the resilient and vital cultural expressions of the African diaspora in the Americas, bringing ancestral materialist-making into the contemporary dimension.


This approach to art-making, which Goode-Bryant and Philips first identified in the late 1970s, became the provenance of artists who defied the prevailing minimalist aesthetic that focused on abstraction, non-objectivity, and the “pure” plastic elements of art-making. As seen in the work of individuals such as Betye Saar, doyenne of West Coast assemblage, these artists even surpassed the vaunted material aspects of postminimalism, the term that art historian Robert Pincus-Witten coined to describe the work of artists including Robert Morris and Eva Hesse, who were working with materials such as felt, latex, and fiberglass. Saar’s The Mystic Window #1 (1965), for example, used the collaging of different materials to engage us with her pertinent and poetic juxtapositions of found objects that reflected the occult essence of African American and Caribbean culture. For Saar, this type of “ritual process”—however improvised and personal—involves several conditions, which she identified for this author in 1988, and these conditions might be brought to bear on an analysis of the work of DeVane.

- Dr. Lowery Stokes Sims

  • St. for My City ○ Baltimore Museum of Art

    spirit sculpture
    St. for my City 2007-10 ○ Features a familiar statue of the Virgin Mary with a modified black face as an urban saint. The total form is painted black— evoking the cults of the “Black Madonna”—and is embellished with an elaborate headdress of black beads. The pedestal is painted and collaged to evoke the various names for God and was created as a memoir for all persons who have died from gun violence.
  • Saint for My City

    spirit sculpture
    Saint for My City ○ 2007-2010 ○ 86 7/8 x 12 7/8 x 13” ○ glass, wood, bullet casings, encaustic, plastic, fabric, mirror, acrylic paint, metal, porcelain

    spirit sculpture
    Nkisi Woman-Universal nkisi ○ 2021-22 ○ 74"(h) x 34" (d) ○ carved wood, beads, paint ○ ○ The interactive sculpture can be seen as evoking cultural expressions of the African diaspora in the Americas, bringing ancestral materialist-making into the contemporary dimension. I carved the large scale figural sculpture of universal N'kisi as an object invested with sacred energy—that will be festooned with beads by visitors to the exhibition as a group manifestation of community and communion.
  • Hagar's Dress in her exile

    HAGAR’S DRESS IN HER EXILE ○ 2012 ○ chains, hemp cord, fabric, beads, sweet gum balls, cowrie shells ○○ This piece is a dress assembled from chains, rope and burlap. The inner core is wire, fabric and some plaster. The floor is covered with spiky "sweet gum balls" which were to be walked on barefoot by participants who wanted to get closer to the dress.
  • Hagar's dress installation

    HAGAR’S DRESS IN HER EXILE 2012 ○ chains, hemp cord, fabric, beads, cowrie shells over a circle of sweet gum balls ○○ The story of Hagar resonates with generations of black women who struggle to hold their families together and in the Harriet Tubman story, people walked across fields of sweet gum ball when they escaped through the Underground Railroad. The story of Hagar metaphorically validates the struggle and strength to endure injustice and was particularly of interest to the African American stories in church.
  • Henry "Box" Brown

    Henry “Box” Brown ○ 2015 ○ 50"(h) x 38"(w) x 60"(d) ○ wood, acrylic paint, sweet gum balls | USA flag fabric, Confederate flag fabric, acrylic paint on canvas

    spirit sculpture
    Escape ○ 2016 ○ wood, clay, branches, sweet gum balls
  • A Letter to John

    A letter to John 2010 a handwritten letter from my mom to my father. Plexiglass box with photo image transfer and glass with the word "dream".
  • Gemini

    Gemini ○ 2018 ○ 38" x 10" x 11" ○ wood, clay, hair, metal, sequin fabric, glass, bullet casings, beads

Sacred Geometry - Book Arts

This large-scale artist book includes images by DeVane and poetry by Washington-based educator, Donna Denize, that was created in response to the Garrett Collection in the library at the Evergreen House, which is a part of the Johns Hopkins University Museums. "The book is inspired from many sources… although my purpose in structuring the book using the circle, triangle and the square was to explore their cosmological symbolism. In West African cosmic thought, the circular motion or spiral constitutes the human soul in a cycle of life that has no end."

"I chose two books about explorations and journeys, The Discovered Lands of Virginia by Thomas Hariot and a letter, The Discovered Islands, by Christopher Columbus. Both presented complex ironies about colonialism and the exotic or mythic illustrations of indigenous peoples. I decided to use the 'metaphorical' journey of the soul as the idea for the mixed media painted pages of the book. The poetry reflects a trip to Italy, where Donna and I met to discuss the art and architecture.” 

Sacred Geometry is a book art project [collaboration with poet Donna Denize] created in 2001 with 9 double-folio mixed media collages with poetry.


Within DeVane’s psyche, combined with her technical prowess for assemblage, she remembers and reimagines found, castoff materials. These works are conceived by the technique of bricolage with which she leverages the use of available materials. Those materials fuel and load her sculptures with symbolic signifiers of intangible and often uncontrollable, inexplicable forces, which include the crucial dynamics of being human and coexisting with otherworldly beings.

- Dr. Leslie King-Hammond


DeVane’s skill in working with “found objects, beads, clay, glass and other materials,” as she “invoke[s] the spirit and are personal prayers, stories or myths...Like that of DeVane’s fellow Baltimorean artist Joyce J. Scott, DeVane’s “interest in diverse cultural interpretation of universal myths is a search for spiritual connections using personal visual references to create mythologies.”

Such connections can be found in Kronos/Collateral (2018), in which Central American celebrations of the dead—where bodies are disinterred and venerated26—and Greek mythology combine to tell the myth of the ancient Greek titan Kronos (Cronos), who devoured his children to circumvent a prophecy that they would depose him. Although the children were eventually disgorged through the intervention of other gods, DeVane casts them as the “collateral damage,” the often innocent and incidental victims in war. Surmounted by a skull (which eerily retains wisps of air), toy soldiers struggle freeform within its skeletal hands in a fall from grace reminiscent of Michelangelo’s in the Sistine Chapel. The additional elements of a miniature missile, tank, and plane and a pyramidal base decorated with beaded bands of blue, white, and red, along with white stars on a blue background, create an allegory of contemporary global war.

DeVane’s Healer (Pilgrimage) (2018) may be said to be a metaphor for the artist’s creative journey. The head of a seeker extends outward from one side of the house-like shrine, suggesting that, like the artist, this entity is eager to receive beliefs and ideas from the various cultures that DeVane renders in forms that actuate their potential. Indeed, in the social practice projects she has undertaken in more recent years in Haiti (where she is working on a public mural) and Hawaii (where she is doing a project with female prisoners), DeVane reveals her determination to explore the philosophical, moral, and ethical focuses of those beliefs and ideas not only in the totality of her work but out in the world.

For DeVane, therefore, art-making is inseparable from her sense of self, her vision of her place on this earth, and her conception of why she is here at this particular moment. Perhaps artist Sylvia Benitez said it best: DeVane’s work reflects choices that are not mirroring others' contributions, but that are the results of a human being who is actually trying to say something about what she feels deeply about.... Personal, explorative, measured with a mature sensitivity to very important issues about race, the human race, all of us...her work is in communion with the source, the spring, and it drinks deeply...She speaks the language of our beginnings, and through this, connects spirit to purpose and purpose to love.

- Dr. Lowery Stokes Sims

  • Kronos/Collateral

    avatars, spirit sculpture, assemblage
    Kronos/Collateral ○ 2018 ○ 20" x 9" x 9" mixed media
  • The Healer

    The Healer/Pilgrimage ○ 2018 ○ 30" x 10"x 10" ○ assemblage fabric, mirror, clay
  • Erzulie

    Erzulie ○ 2016 ○ 18"x 6" x 6" ○ assemblage
  • Venetian Waters

    Venetian Waters (postcard series) ○ 2012 ○ 6" x 4" x 4" ○ mixed media
  • Crossroads BLM

    Crossroads (BLM) ○ 2019 ○ 30" x 30" x 2" ○ fabric, beads, plaster, acrylic
  • Earth Mother

    Earth Mother ○ 2018 ○ 36" x 30" x 6"○ beads, fabric, resin, plastic, wood
  • Doorway to Nowhere

    Doorway to Nowhere ○ 1980 ○ 24" x 30 " ○ acrylic, charcoal, fabric
  • Restavek

    Restavek ○ 2016 ○ 30" x 30" x 2" ○ encaustic, fabric, plastic, glass, feathers, beads
  • she'll come for us too

    she'll come for us too ○ 1995 ○ 24" x 30" ○ collage
  • Child's Play

    nine 12" x 12" mixed media panels ○ 2015


Excerpted from an interview conducted on December 4th, 2018 with Virginia Anderson for BMA/Stories—

Anderson: You’ve mentioned before that your father was an important role model for you in becoming an artist. Can you tell me a little bit about him and your relationship with him?

DeVane: My dad worked at Bethlehem Steel. He had strong opinions and personality, and he loved talking about art and exposing us to black writers. He took my brothers, sister, and me to a Martin Luther King March in D.C., and to the Poor People’s March in the ’60s. When he realized I was going to art school, he insisted, “You know, there are black artists out there. You’ve got to learn about people like Jake Lawrence and Romare Bearden.”

He was the first in his family to go to college and was really into what artists were doing. Sometimes he would come home, set up an easel in the dining room, and paint. I wish I had some of his paintings now. I remember one of his paintings of Noah and the flood, and another of Ezekiel. They were always somehow related to biblical stories, and he ended up giving one to a little corner church we used to go to as kids. He did a self- portrait that was pretty fabulous. Our family house in Catonsville flooded one year and we lost everything. All we had stored in the basement was irretrievable. To have lost that part of him has always been something my sister and I talk about. He was highly intuitive artistically, but he had lots of skills I admired. It was this visual language that was coming out of this person whose labor was just so ordinary.


I’ve always loved color and textures.   Bringing the extraordinary into being is a struggle and I've wanted to surpass mundane representation of ideas. The framework of painting has just been another language, through which I experiment with materials and  search to find meaning.


  • Veils I,II,III,IV

    Veils I, II, III, IV. ○ 2000 ○ Vandyke process, fabric and acrylic ○○ Represent so many things in our life that we think are important. Our desires, greed, lack of self worth, distrust, etc. Veils that need to unravel to find our true selves.
  • Veils I

    Veils 1 ○ 2000
  • Veils IV

    Veils IV ○ 2000 ○ Vandyke process, fabric and acrylic
  • Tuskegee Airmen

    Tuskegee Airmen ○ 2003 ○ Oil on canvas collaged ○ each panel 4' x 4'
  • Tuskegee Airmen

    Tuskegee Airmen ○ 2003 ○ oil on canvas
  • Tuskegee Red Tails

    Tuskegee Red Tails ○ 2003 ○ oil on canvas
  • Love Letters

    Love Letters ○ 2004 ○ oil and fabric on canvas ○ 54"x54"
  • I want to fly away

    I want to fly away ○ 2009 ○ oil on canvas ○ 45" x 60"
  • Swamp angel

    Swamp Angel ○ acrylic on panel, mixed media
  • McDonald's Oasis-(Abu Dhabi)

    McDonald's Oasis (Abu Dhabi) ○ 2015 ○ 56"x 60" ○ acrylic on canvas

Beyond Bars

BEYOND BARS is a transformative program for women inmates at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua, HI. Eleven women are part of an approved interview project organized by Tadia Rice based on a proposal we made between 2015-2018. I photograph and videotape the women who tell their stories based on past, present, future format. The three face portraits were inspired by Hecate, the goddess of crossroads.

The BEYOND BARS project has supported the critical work of the Women's Community Correctional Center for nine years by adding value as the women recover from trauma, substance abuse, and mental health issues. Every offender has a story, comprising 258 pre-trial or sentenced inmates; whether they are maximum, medium and minimum custody levels. The facility utilizes a trauma informed framework to create a supportive and comprehensively integrated environment. BEYOND BARS was a proposal to change the public perception of female offenders through its artistic effort to document the stories of the women, some who are criminally violent and others are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses.

  • Dion'e: Searching for Self

    The Prison Monologues Project is an ambitiously scaled project that supports the Women’s Correctional Center in Kailua, Hawaii which embraces the philosophy that prison should be a place of healing. I was a volunteer for four days of my stay in Hawaii and during that time I met several women who were parolees trying to reintegrate into their community. I took over 200 photographs of two women, listened and recorded their stories as part of the Prison Monologues video portraits. Many of the women have had traumatic lives and are slowly healing.
  • Fili's Song

    Fili is a vocalist and chose to reveal her past, present and future as a song. This video will be at the end the video series.
  • Tiana

    “A Baby Having Babies” (Video) ○ Falling into drugs after her first child at 13 years old, Tiana tried taking the easy way out of her problems, but running from the law left her with two prison sentences and the loss of all her children. Wanting to fit in led down a dangerous path where she continues to serve her ninth year for an original five-year term.
  • Tiana ○ Tuttle Gallery

    Video and Photographic Hecate Print
  • Zoe

Oletha's Curated Collection

View Oletha's favorite works from other Baker Artists