Olivia Steele's works juxtapose some of today's most striking social ambiguities in the form they choose and the message they convey. Born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1985, Steele uses neon, video, and listed building facades to create her double entendres – based on select references that jar the viewer beyond the everyday. On a symbolic level, the results she produces are both iconic and personal. The reactions her works provoke are equally ambivalent: humorous and irritating. One thing they do not do, however, is leave the viewer indifferent – true to her belief that "CONTRAST IS THE GREATEST TEACHER."
By charging these famous facades with her independent commentary, she attempts to challenge viewers’ assumptions about modern culture and conventional semiotics. In dialog with public spaces, her more sentimental neon statements straddle the line between sincerity and sarcasm, often leaving her viewer intrigued.
This month, I traveled to Mumbai and Beirut to install my illuminated acumens in the homes of some very special collectors. It took an airplane, a boat, a carriage, and a tuk-tuk to finally hand deliver my artwork to a private residence off the coast of Mumbai. Behind a silk curtain in a beautiful home beside a stunning beach, my words rest, strategically placed to remind all who walk through the space that There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
Next stop: Beirut, another stunning home in which to install another piece of my heart. In the hills outside Beirut, surrounded by cedars and pines, the light of my father’s handwritten words See you on the other side… are now a beacon for the whole family to cherish for years to come.
It is difficult to know what to expect when meeting clients for the first time, but both Mumbai and Beirut introduced me to wonderful collectors who connected with my art on a personal level; and, through connecting with them, I left with a great sense of gratitude and inspiration. It is so reassuring to genuinely bond with those who collect my art, as well as to see firsthand that my art is exactly where it’s meant to be. This reward is why I adore my job and my life! What more could I ask for?
After 5 years of consistent production and the creation of over 200 artworks, my studio in Berlin could no longer grow with me. It was time for an upgrade to mark the beginning of a new era. July was filled with construction, materials, problems, solutions, and plenty of creative bliss as I moved into my new studio in what used to be the canteen at the Alte Münze, Berlin’s former coin mint. Not only have I expanded, multiplied, and amplified my existing collection of “objets trouvées” and neon creations, I now have 450 m2 at my disposal for turning my dreams and visions into reality. Complete with a window gallery and full size kitchen, I look forward to hosting my clients, friends, and family. There is nothing quite like that moment of satisfaction when you finally realize what’s really possible for you. My new space is proof that dreams do come true, and happiness is only real when shared. If you're interested in a private tour or studio visit, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For many people, traveling to Burning Man is like coming home. On the playa, “Burners” express themselves creatively and freely, having willingly forgotten the pressures of modern culture that inhibit identity, and experience a temporary society free from consumerism. I was honored to be invited to install three artworks on the playa this year, and the experience alone was worth all the complications involved with such a process. After five years of dreaming, I finally delivered my gift of light and reflection to the playa with the installation You Are Exactly Where You Need To Be, which was a huge success. It was featured in USA TODAY and was listed as one of the “13 photos that make our nostrils flare”, by A Plus Magazine. I also had a lot of fun collaborating with Moral Turgeman on The Little House project, which debuted at Burning Man as well.
Burning Man, Black Rock Desert, Nevada
I traveled to install my first show in New York at the inaugural exhibition of the new Rumney Guggenheim Gallery, in the Historic Williamsburg Savings Bank in Brooklyn. The show, titled Some Place Like Home, brought together a selection of site-specific works exploring concepts of estrangement and belonging all under the thematic umbrella of domesticity. The show addressed a range of associations with the experience of home, from domestic bliss to bleakness, and all works shared this study of estrangement and belonging in both public and private spaces. I showed a total of nine works, including You Are Exactly Where You Need to Be.
Rumney Guggenheim Gallery
834 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Open to the public from October 8 to November 11
Summit at Sea is an intensive weekend gathering on a massive cruise ship for leaders industries across the board, from business entrepreneurs to research scientists, actors, artists, and performers, to name a few. The weekend brings these individuals together to foster an exchange of ideas between dreamers and doers “so they can make a positive impact on the world.” Olivia was invited to attend and install her artworks aboard the summit ship. OH no, a neon broke... but, luckily Olivia was able to get creative with some cardboard which ended up being loved by all aboard.
DIA DE LOS MUERTOS
From Ibiza all the way to Oaxaca with Love. After a production trip to Ibiza to design and create Viva La Muerte Neon, Olivia was off to Oaxaca, Mexico for the Gem and Bolt Dia de los Muertos celebration in an abandoned hacienda where Olivia installed custom neon on the front façade to welcome guests into the event. Join us next year when we celebrate again. In the meantime, try some of their magic elixir.
For one of the biggest art events of the year, Olivia went all out in bringing messages in light to the city and incorporating her love for art in unexpected places. In addition to exhibits organized by her New York gallery Rumney Guggenheim at Scope Art Fair on the beach and Art Bastion in Wynwood, she was also invited to install art in a number of public spaces. It’s those in-between unexpected moments when you are outside, having a break, or perhaps just unwinding that art can really move you. Olivia teamed up with Edition Hotels to install two permanent artworks at the Miami Beach Edition, I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night and Future Memories, installed in their ice-skating rink and club titled The Basement. They collaborated with Soto Sake to print over 200 books to give for free to each guest, and they celebrated Olivia’s work with a cocktail evening. Bringing her art straight to the street in a public space, Olivia installed two new large site-specific works in the windows of her friends Atrium on Collins Avenue, which will be on view all year round. Olivia also installed more ephemeral works at Edge Art Fair and the Vintro Hotel.