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Professor's exhibit opens in NYC this week
Cutline: Art professor Jamie Oliver is able to bring his professional experience as a working artist into the classroom: He has a solo exhibit opening at a gallery in New York City this week.

Professor's exhibit opens in NYC this week

Art students at PSU have an advantage when it comes to learning the business side of art before graduating — the part that will help them earn a living someday. That's because their teacher, Jamie Oliver, professor of painting and color theory, is also a working artist who brings his professional experiences into the classroom.  

This week, he gets to add yet another solo exhibition to his resumé: A solo exhibition in the George Billis Gallery in New York City. It opens on Wednesday, with an opening reception on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., and runs through Jan. 6, 2018.  

The gallery has been part of the Chelsea Art District for 20 years. It's not Oliver's first time there; he showed there in solo exhibitions in 2006 and 2010, and in group exhibitions several times.  

Heather Horton, a PSU graduate (2005, 2007) who turned art into a business by opening her own custom cake shop in downtown Pittsburg, said Oliver's work as a professional artist inspired her — so much so that when she won a trip to New York City last year, she made it a point to seek out his work in an exhibit.  

"I pretty much took every class that he offered," Horton said. "Jamie is the perfect example of what a 'working artist' is and can be. Art isn't just about creating. It's a full-time job. You have to work it, to make it work for you."  

A native of Jacksonville, Illinois, Oliver received his Master's degree in Fine Arts from Tulane University in New Orleans, a Master of Arts degree from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Denison University in Granville, Ohio. He taught at Denison as an assistant professor of painting and drawing from 1997 to 2001.  

He joined the PSU faculty as an assistant professor in 2001. He currently serves as the interim chair of the Department of Art.  

His solo exhibitions have been at the Spiva Center for the Arts in Joplin, Missouri, the Strawn Art Gallery in Jacksonville, Illinois, the University of Oklahoma Lightwell Gallery, and Art Central in Carthage, Missouri, and has been part of group exhibitions at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, the Brooklyn Art Library in Brooklyn, New York, the Maryland Federation of Art Gallery in Annapolis, Maryland, the Art Institute of Seattle Galleries in Seattle, Washington, and many others.   

"He's very diligent and professional with his work," Horton said. "He constantly has projects going on and is constantly sending his work off to galleries and entering it into shows."  

In organizing his paintings, Oliver said he combines aspects from multiple sources — drawings from observation, photographing reference, and memories of being in the place  

His paintings of crowds will immediately feel familiar to anyone who has ever been to a community festival — Little Balkans Days and Fourth of July town-wide celebrations in Pittsburg come to mind. Dads wearing baseball caps, moms pushing strollers. A backpack slung over a shoulder.  

Oliver's goal is to integrate the viewer of his paintings as an active participant in the experience of his work.  

"Rather than just viewing the work passively, the viewer is asked to engage in the work both formally and conceptually by filtering the generalized scene through his or her own personal memories of similar events or spaces," Oliver said.  

And, he said, he also enjoys engaging students by involving them in the business side of an exhibition, including preparing and packaging paintings for shipping. Horton said she appreciated that as a student. And now, as a professional herself, she knows how challenging it can be to be creative on a daily basis.  

"People often think that fame and fortune equal success. To me, success is being able to continue your craft over years and years," she said. "Success as an artist is continually growing, changing and adapting with the art scene. Success is being able to wake up and go to work and produce."  

Oliver is a member of the College Art Association, Popular Culture Association, and Founders in Art: Theory and Education.  

To learn more about PSU's art program, visit http://www.pittstate.edu/department/art/ 

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