Marvin Oliver

Marvin Oliver

Marvin Oliver was of Quinault and Isleta-Pueblo heritage. He drew upon the Northwest Coast half of his heritage for artistic inspiration, combining northern formline design with southern Coast Salish imagery. Oliver’s dual heritage allowed him to incorporate influences of two cultures which each have a tradition of being interpreted visually.  Both the Pueblo and the Quinault are tribes whose culture was taught through oral tradition that was depicted in carving, weaving, and ceremonial pottery.

Marvin Oliver was one of the Northwest’s best known sculptors and printmakers. His prints, masks, helmets and wood panels fused ancient forms with contemporary aesthetics. Particularly exhilarating is how these ancient traditions adapt so well to modern materials. Oliver designed formline digitally art since the technology was in its infancy, asnd was one of the first Coastal artists to experiment with the relatively novel techniques of slumping, casting and fusing glass.

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

Oliver was not only an artist, but an educator as well. He held a part time post at the University of Alaska, Ketchikan, and was also a professor in the American Indian Studies Department at the University of Washington. He taught two-dimensional design and woodcarving to students in the University’s Art Department and also served as an adjunct art history professor. Oliver was Adjunct Curator of Contemporary Native American Art at the Burke Museum.

Marvin passed in July 2019 at the age of 73.

My works are formulated by merging the spirit of past traditions with those of the present… to create new horizons for the future.

–Marvin Oliver, Quinault/Isleta-Pueblo