Marvin Oliver

Marvin Oliver

Marvin Oliver is of Quinault and Isleta-Pueblo heritage. He draws upon the Northwest Coast half of his heritage for artistic inspiration, combining northern formline design with southern Coast Salish imagery.

Marvin is one of the Northwest’s best known sculptors and printmakers. His prints, masks, helmets and wood panels fuse ancient forms with contemporary aesthetics.

His monumental works in cedar, bronze, cast glass and enameled steel – especially his totem poles and towering, stylized whale fins – has influenced recent new directions in contemporary Northwest Coast art and has established him as one of Seattle’s foremost contributors to civic art. His works have been installed in Washington as well as through out the United States, Canada, and Japan.

Not only is Marvin an excellent artist but an inspiring teacher as well. He holds a part time post at the University of Alaska, Ketchikan, and has also been a professor in the American Indian Studies department at the University of Washington since 1974. He teaches two-dimensional design and woodcarving to students in the University’s Art Department and also serves as an adjunct art history professor. Marvin is Curator of Contemporary Native American Art at the Burke Museum.

The Stonington Gallery has represented Quinault/Isleta Pueblo artist Marvin Oliver for approximately twenty years.   The art of the Pacific Northwest Coast Indians dates back thousands of years.  The cultures that developed along the magnificent coastline are ancient, and were highly developed.  The art of these tribes are considered among the world’s great art-forms.

However, contact had a profound impact on these cultures.  Urban areas have developed in what were recently virgin old growth forests.  Industry has grown along the banks of rivers and oceans, fundamentally changing the health of the ecosystems that sustained these cultures.

As challenging as the past century has been on the tribes, there are some significant and important developments in the on going undertaking to learn about the arts, understand the role of the art and to help its execution in the highest application by today’s artists.  Marvin Oliver’s influence as both an educator; he chairs the American Indian Dept. at the UW and is curator of contemporary native art at the U of WA Burke Museum, and as a visual artist has been profound.  Marvin is a contemporary fine artist who draws inspiration from a family and cultural history that has a tradition of being interpreted visually.  Both the Pueblo and the Quinault were tribes whose culture was taught through oral tradition that was depicted in carving, weaving, and ceremonial pottery.

What is particularly exciting is to watch this ancient tradition adapt so well to the modern materials Marvin is drawn to.  He loves the glass medium and bronze.  He is always the first to work with new media.  He was digitally designing formline art when the technology was in its infancy.  He was using cast glass to in place of cedar as a medium for etching formline art.