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.
Todo lo que puedes imaginar es Real.
In this year’s collaboration with Zona Maco, México City’s premiere contemporary art festival, Oliva was thrilled to contribute an artwork to The Beauty Project México’s sprawling urban endeavor. Fastened to the façade of the modernist Avenida Álvaro Obregón 151 in the city’s Roma Norte district, Todo lo que puedes imaginar es Real (Everything You Can Imagine Is Real) pays homage to the undying creative spirit of México City. This turquoise neon intervention is an evocation of the insatiability of human creativity, reminding all who contact the work that anything imaginable can be realized, that anything uncertain can be negotiated, and that the abstract is only waiting for you to be concretized. Who could ever have imagined this?
Ciudad de México, México
Olivia is honored for her artwork You Are The Only One to have been featured in this year’s AfrikaBurn – her first (but certainly not her last) piece to be displayed on the continent. The neon harnesses a bespoke, minimalist DJ stage (constructed with salvaged wood and mirror, also designed by Olivia); thus the two elements work in tandem, creating an engaging and inspiring Gesamtkunstwerk of sorts. You Are The Only One is a call to attention: a spiritual reminder to embrace our individual solipsism[s] within the context of AfrikaBurn’s celebratory global community. After this year’s Burn, both the neon and its corresponding stage will be resurrected in a Capetown township in the new Langa Music School, developed by Bridges For Music, an NPO devoted to creating opportunities and leaving a positive impact on disadvantaged global communities through electronic music.
Tankwa Karoo & Capetown, South Africa
Also re-emerging out of Nevada's desert sands and into Miami’s sunshine are Olivia's inimitable road signs. In this on-going international project fondly referred to as "Public Displays of Awareness" (PDA), Olivia has co-opted Wynwood traffic signage in a guerrilla art operation across the neighborhood’s art district with the following aphorisms:
Trust Yourself, Know Thyself, Stay Present, Control Yourself, Forgive Yourself, Follow That Dream.
From coast to coast and continent to continent – the eagles have landed. Olivia's team of young, talented light magicians have helped illuminate the Magic City where she will premier many new temporary and permanent satellite installations for Art Basel Miami Beach.
"It's moments like these when I have to ask myself: What If This Is All Real? I live a completely different life compared to a few years ago, a striking contrast to the way I grew up. The main difference would be the awareness and understanding of how the universe works and my role in this circus. I'm grateful for all the people who have come in and out of my life, all the lessons, the highs, the lows, the love, the hate, the setbacks and the comebacks." - OS
See how the magic unfolded on instagram @steeleism
“VIVA LA MUERTE! This was one of my most dangerous installations to date – but hey, if you're not living on the edge, you're simply not living. What a wonderful and magical event; so many friends were there, both old and new! I’d like to thank everyone who traveled the distance to experience this remarkable event. I’m so lucky that my art continues to bring me to spectacular locations, enabling me to connect with the people I love the most.”
Olivia installed Excuse Me While I Disappear (Perdoname mientras me Desaparesco) in Oaxaca, a special edition morse code installation for the Gem and Bolt mezcal picnic.
Olivia Steele has returned to the Black Rock Desert for this year’s Burning Man: Nevada’s temporary Metropolis. Populated with happenings, installations and performances, the annual, week long festival brings together the international artistic community in order to make transient and meaningful connections with our fellow humans and the surrounding nature. Olivia’s “Public Displays of Awareness” and neon installations were a part of this year’s theme “da Vinci’s Workshop” which was inspired by “the Italian Renaissance of the middle fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, when a historic convergence of inspired artistry, technical innovation and enlightened patronage launched Europe out of medievalism and into modernity.”