The Susan Oliver Invitational is set to debut at the Averitt Center for the Arts in downtown Statesboro. The collection of her paintings opens Friday during a 7 p.m. reception at the Averitt Center and continues through Nov. 27.
Many in Bulloch County may recognize Oliver’s name as the artist who was commissioned to paint portraits of all the past presidents of Georgia Southern University.
When she was asked to write about her paintings in the upcoming exhibit she admitted she “really did not like entering competitions” and most of works are commissions. Even with prestigious accomplishments, talking about her work is something Oliver does not enjoy.
Oliver said: “I came to fine art through the back door.”
In college she followed a pre-med course track and carried an unusual double major of chemistry and art. Her faculty advisor disapproved and also with her plans to be a medical illustrator. To Oliver, it seemed a logical career choice – satisfying her love of science and art.
While attending Hood College she met Jim Oliver, a young scientist. She was on a scholarship which stipulated that if she married while attending college the full amount of the scholarship would have to be repaid. The couple waited to marry until Oliver received her B.A.
Oliver explained: “I put off painting and concentrated on family, homemaking and civic services.”
For the next several years the couple followed Jim Oliver’s career spending time in Lawrence, Kansas; Berkley, Calif., and eventually seeing every continent except Antarctica. She said she has no regrets about putting her career on hold.
“Jim provided me with a life of excitement, travel and experiences neither of us could have predicted,” she said.
In 1968 the couple moved to Statesboro and Jim Oliver began teaching at Georgia Southern while continuing his research and becoming the head of the Institute of Anthropodology and Parasitology.
Susan Oliver involved herself in family and volunteer work, and she began pursuing her gift for painting. Oliver painted portraits and even designed their dream house. She eventually began to hone her skills and develop her own style, which clearly show the influences of her travels. In some of her works she embraces a graphic Japanese woodblock influence, much like those of the Impressionist movement. One can see a bit of Monet and Degas in a way that is both timeless and fresh.