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.
Also re-emerging out of Nevada's desert sands and into Miami sunshine are Olivia's inimitable road signs. In the on-going international project fondly referred to as "Public Displays of Affection"(PDA), Olivia co-opted Wynwood traffic signage in a guerrilla art operation across Wynwood's art district with the following aphorisms:
Trust Yourself, Know Thyself, Stay Present, Control Yourself, Forgive Yourself, Follow That Dream, 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 her to illuminate the Magic City where she will premier many new temporary and permanent satellite installations for Art Basel Miami.
"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."
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 taking up too much space. What a wonderful and magic event: so many of the tribe were present and I’d like to thank everyone who traveled the distance! 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.
"May my manifestations empower you and amplify your process as we enter into an age of light." – Olivia Steele
The solo exhibition “Faux Real“ at Circle Culture Gallery included a collection of truisms, illusions, and illuminated metaphors. In this show, Steele created opposing contrasts to serve as a guiding light in the process of self exploration combined with the beautiful side of suffering and the quest for enlightenment. The concepts and statements on show reflected a series of personal self-realizations of the artist as she unravels the threads and unlearns layers of conditioning from a standard American upbringing in this game we all play called life.
“It’s no doubt that the future of humanity is moving into the imagination. As the gap between the impossible and the possible lessens, and the veil on reality and spirituality lifts, certain truths become more evident and hard to deny. A crucial aspect to our evolution as a human race is replacing fear of the unknown with curiosity. “Know Thyself“, a black-lit adage from this collection, brings us to reflect upon our need to nurture our imaginations in the journey to identify one’s purpose or, through self reflection, as you come to discover what is Faux and what is Real."
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?