Scarves, Paintings of Internationally-Renowned Waco Artist Kermit Oliver Will Be Shown in Baylor’s Martin Museum of Art

  • Kermit Oliver
    Kermit Oliver courtesy photo.
  • Oliver scarf
    Oliver scarf photo courtesy of Rachel Miller.
May 1, 2014

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Media contact: Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (May 1, 2014) – In Central Texas there lives a man who in a small room in a 1900s white prairie house spends months, years creates paintings of rustic American scenes—paintings that will eventually be worth thousands of dollars.

Wacoan Kermit Oliver, 71, has spent three decades creating 16 scarf designs for the Paris-based clothing company Hermés. Though he is internationally known, he remains humble and understated about his successes.

Baylor University’s Martin Museum of Art will display a collection of Oliver’s paintings and scarves in Gallery 1 from May 4 to July 13.

Oliver paints on varied surfaces with diverse styles and tools, but his scarves are his most well-known work. His art is trademarked with agrarian themes and dozens of detailed elements, each representing something, said Karin Gilliam, director of the Martin Museum.

His story begins in Houston, where he was the first African-American man to have his work displayed in a major Houston gallery. He quickly gained popularity, with more than 1,000 attendees at each of his openings, his all paintings selling out early in the evening.

It was in Houston that his talent was noticed by Shelby Sanders Stroope, who was dating Lawrence Marcus, executive vice president of Neiman Marcus. He recommended Oliver to Hermés, which was looking for an American painter to design a Southwestern-themed scarf.

In October of last year, the city of Houston recognized Oliver when the Art League of Houston awarded him with its first Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts.

“That’s actually their first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award,” Gilliam said. “He set the bar. When you consider that the Art League of Houston has been around for decades and decades, for him to be first is pretty remarkable, pretty exceptional.”

Gilliam met Oliver while she was on the board for the Waco Cultural Arts Fest. The board was adding art to the walls of the Waco Chamber of Commerce building and wanted an original Kermit Oliver piece.

Very recently, Oliver also created a work for Baylor University, commissioned by longtime Baylor donors Ted and Sue Getterman. Sue Getterman will present the painting at the end of a ceremony and talk by Oliver to launch the exhibition at 3:45 p.m. Monday, May 5.

“Kermit feels very connected to the university and he was extremely pleased to do that commission,” Gilliam said.

The symbolism Oliver is so fond of is not lacking in this painting either. It includes elements of education, religion, victory and the arts.

“Every single tiny thing is symbolic,” Gilliam said. “We thought that that might give people a sense of what his paintings are about because they’re all that way. And in this case, they are symbolizing the mission of Baylor as far as academic excellence and also its mission to give its students spiritual strength as well as academic strength.”

The Martin Museum of Art is located in the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center, 60 Baylor Ave. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and is closed on Mondays.

For more information, call 254-710-6390.

by Rachel Miller, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

ABOUT MARTIN MUSEUM OF ART

The museum’s mission is one of education and service by bringing outstanding art exhibitions, speakers and guest artists to Baylor University and Central Texas. The museum serves as a valuable teaching tool for students and faculty. Exhibitions complement the courses of art history and studio art taught within Baylor’s department of art. The permanent consists of approximately 1,300 objects representing a variety of art that has been donated to or purchased by Baylor. The collection contains art by such well-known artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Kathe Kollwitz, Francisco de Goya, and Edouard-Leon Cortes. Included in the collection are approximately 300 paintings by famous watercolor artists, among them George Post, Phil Dike, Edgar Whitney and John Marin.

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