The local photographer and painter uses evidence based design to create calming artwork.
By Megan Reed
When people enter a room, one of the first things that they will notice is the artwork, and those pieces of art and color patterns can alter a person’s mood.
There have been studies at hospitals on evidence-based design, which interior designers use when they select items in a room. The studies found that certain colors in the art, and certain type of scenes from nature would have a calming affect on their patients, while louder colors and busier scenes could excite a person.
Gail Oliver uses this theory when she creates her art.
“If you have a stressful job, you want to use art that is known to lower your blood pressure,” she said. “Those are images of nature and nice things. Something that can soothe your soul.”
Oliver is a photographer, painter, and she creates ceramics. She creates art for home, office, and a few of her pieces were purchased by Kaiser Permanente, Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Offices.
“Bright colors excite, and nature relaxes,” she said. “When I was doing the Kaiser job they told us no reds, because that raises your blood pressure. So everything was calm and peaceful. I'd like to think that the shots I take are calming.”
When Oliver sets out to create art, she typically hits the road and explores the state of California. She takes trips to places like Yosemite National Park, where she takes photos of water flowing along riverbeds and flowers blossoming. She creates images, whether it’s through photography or paintings, that puts her clients in a positive state of mind.
Oliver considers herself as a visual artist, and she’s been creating work since the mid 1970s. She’s a Los Angeles native who grew up in Leimert Park. She attended Audubon Middle School, Los Angeles High School, and Cal State Los Angeles. She majored in biology, but she ended up following in her parents’ footsteps. Her mother was an art teacher at Angeles Mesa Elementary School, and her father was a photographer for Thomas Brothers.
“I was always interested in cameras,” she said. “My dad bought one for his retirement and he told me don't touch it. And of course I touched it. I didn't know what I was doing. I was just playing with it. And he eventually taught me how to use this camera.”
Oliver became a graphic designer for Black Radio Exclusive, which is a music and radio industry tip sheet. While there she also worked as a concert photographer and wrote concert reviews. She later created work for companies that created movie posters, video packaging, and ads.
Today, Oliver does product and real estate photography, headshots, and abstract paintings.
One interesting point that Oliver made is that she doesn’t have art in her home that depicts the struggles that Black people have endured.
“Your house is your sanctuary, so you shouldn't have upsetting things in it,” she said. “When I get home I don't want to be depressed with somebody that has a ball and chain on their foot. That's just me. I like old pictures of Black families because there's nothing more regal, but I don't want to see downtrodden. My family is from the South and that's what we know. My parents came out here to escape Jim Crow, so I don't need to remind myself. I like pretty things. I like to think that I have a pretty aesthetic.”
While Oliver is aware of the struggles that Black people continue to go through, she chooses to promote the positive attributes of the race.
“We're positive people,” she said. “We're not what people see in the media.”
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