The Day it Rained Oil


  • S. Olivieri

Eighteen-year old painter Shari Olivieri occupies a second floor Artist in Residence studio in the 8th Street Marketplace Building in BODO. One of her recent works, The Day it Rained Oil, is a response to this summer’s massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Standing about six feet tall and measuring approximately 18 inches wide, the painting depicts rivers of saturated blue and green flowing downward to a black-stained pair of small, uplifted human hands.

“Humanity has its hands dirty and I wanted to convey that. That’s why instead of drawing the hands, I did an image transfer so that the black would be rich because humanity’s hands and our [oil] industry is filthy. It’s contaminated. It’s wrong,” said Olivieri.

“With this particular piece, you can see that the hands are at the bottom reaching up and I chose to make them, instead of thumbs together, pinkies together so that it’s more of a helpless stance,” Olivieri continued.

The poised, mature young lady opened her sketch book to show off her image transfer technique and described how she used acrylic paint and varnish to create the piece. Leafing through her book, she described how she got started as an artist.

”[Art has] always been my strong suit and in school it was my favorite class. I was the kid who was always drawing during history and math, and got in trouble for doodling. At the high school that I went to [we] did almost all self-study in the art class. That’s really where I took off. Instead of continuing to college, I said, ‘You know what? I can teach myself,’" said Olivieri. "Someday I’d like to go back to school and learn some more technique. But I loved self-study. I love figuring out my limits—my processes—and trying to make my ideas into something real.”

Shortly after Olivieri moved into the AIR studio in June, between her first private party and July’s First Thursday exhibit, she sold out her entire inventory of mixed-media paintings. I ask whether she feels paralyzed by having to create a new batch of artworks from scratch before August’s First Thursday event or if she feels full of ideas itching to come out.

“It’s a little bit of both, but it’s kind of scary because I don’t want to rush my process. I need to fill these walls, but I don’t want to force it," said Olivieri. "I have a bunch of ideas and ... I really want the pieces that I’m going to create to have as much meaning behind them as [The Day it Rained Oil].”

Though Olivieri’s three month Artist in Residence gig will end after First Thursday in September, the young painter hopes to eventually open a gallery of her own.

“It’s always been my dream to open an art gallery. I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m already here!’ You know? I’m 18 years old. I hope to rent another commercial space downtown and keep a studio like this," said Olivieri. "Eventually, I want to host other local artists.”

“For Artist in Residence I came in with the hope that I could bring the community into the process of art, to come backstage and see how it evolves and what is really behind it,” said Olivieri.