Oletha DeVane: Spectrum of Light and Spirit

Harriet Tubman is at the center of a large abstract collage surrounded by silhouettes of leaves, birds, and other flora
Oletha DeVane, Harriet the Raven, 2019, digital media, solar etching and graphite on paper, 30 x40 inches. Photo by Michael Koryta

Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture at UMBC opens Oletha DeVane: Spectrum of Light and Spirit, organized by curator Lowery Stokes Sims

Exhibition of nearly 100 artworks is first career retrospective of Oletha DeVane’s decades-long artistic multimedia practice; opens September 22, 2022

Oletha DeVane: Spectrum of Light and Spirit is the first full retrospective honoring Maryland-based artist Oletha DeVane. A prominent presence in the Baltimore area arts scene for many decades, DeVane is an artist who works in all media, including public sculpture, as well as an active educator, arts administrator, and curator. Organized by curator Lowery Stokes Sims, Spectrum of Light and Spirit will trace DeVane’s extensive career—from her early paintings and works on paper to video artworks and interactive sculpture on view for the first time at the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture (CADVC) at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“Oletha DeVane is a way finder and a story teller,” said curator Lowery Stokes Sims. “Over the last five decades as she has traveled in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, she has been inspired by the stories and characters she encounters, bringing the unexpected to light, while finding new nuances in the old and familiar, and unexpected correlations among those varied cultures.”

“I look at the ways that Black culture has become global,” said DeVane, whose large-scale carved sculpture Nkisi Woman-Universal Nkisi (2021-22) will be activated over the course of the exhibition by visitors who are invited to add beads to its surface. DeVane continues “I’ve always been fascinated by how materials convey meaning and reemerge as myths and memories.” The nkisi is a Kongo cultural figure invested with sacred energy, and this sculpture is one of the highlights of the exhibition, which will catalyze communion and community-building.

The exhibition also celebrates Oletha DeVane’s collaborative activities. Her longstanding collaboration with writer and media personality Tadia Rice, Beyond Bars: Prison Women Speak, will be updated for the exhibition in the form of new video works.

“Oletha DeVane is a prolific artist who has spent decades learning and making art about the most profound phenomena of our human condition: spirituality, mythology, and transformative experience, including experiences of hardship,” said Rebecca Uchill, CADVC Director. “It is our absolute honor to host her career retrospective, Spectrum of Light and Spirit, and the many events that will celebrate this monumental exhibition.”

The exhibition will be accompanied by many events and activities:

September 22, 5-7pm Opening reception at Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture

September 27, 5-7pm “Art from the Inside” panel discussion in association with the exhibition of Prison Nation at Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery

October 13, 4-6:30pm “College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Colloquium Panel on Resilience” followed by open exhibition at Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture

December 8, 6pm Closing panel discussion at Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture

Periodic activations of Nkisi Woman-Universal Nkisi sculpture with guest facilitators:

October 6, noon

October 8, 3pm

October 29, 3pm

All events are free and open to the public. For special accessibility needs or questions, please email abbotts@umbc.edu as soon as possible. We will do our best to provide accommodation and access.

Oletha DeVane: Spectrum of Light and Spirit runs from September 22, 2022 through December 17, 2022


Artist’s Biography

For the last four decades DeVane has been a prominent presence in the Baltimore area art scene as an arts administrator, curator and educator in the arts. She began her undergraduate studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1968, where she studied with poet/artists David Franks and Joe Cardarelli, who in her words “fed” her “curiosity about poetry and language as they relate to visual art.” In 1973 DeVane went to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to pursue her graduate degree, where her advisor was painter Nelson Stevens, a key figure in the AfriCobra group. She also took advantage of a course on Black Women and African Studies, offered by Johnnetta Cole and Esther Terry, which provided her with “a wealth of knowledge and challenge in thinking about the role of women and claiming self-determination.”

After receiving her MA, DeVane taught and worked for over a decade as an administrator for the Maryland Council on the Arts for 13 years, before taking a position at the McDonogh School in Owings Mills, MD in 1993, where she was Director of the Tuttle Gallery and head of visual arts in the Upper Level. In 2007 she was the recipient of the Rollins/Luetkemeyer Chair for Distinguish Teaching.  DeVane started a mosaic in Camp Coq, Haiti with the help of local artisans and students in 2017.

DeVane has received grants, awards, and fellowships from the Ruby Foundation, Art Matters, the Trawick Prize, and other honors. In addition to her 2016 residency in Abu Dhabi, DeVane has also been an Artist in Residence in Banff, Canada, and in Leece, Italy. DeVane counts among the artistic cohort she has formed over the years: art historian/artist Leslie King Hammond, former graduate dean at MICA, bead and glass artist Joyce J. Scott, poet Charles Fox, as well as a women’s artistic collaborative known as the Girls of Baltimore, which includes King Hammond, Scott, Patti Tronolone, Ellen Burchenal, and Linda DePalma.


UMBC is committed to creating an accessible and inclusive environment for all students, staff, and visitors. If you have difficulties accessing any of the materials on our sites, please contact us via email so we can provide an alternative format and remedy any accessibility challenges.

If you have an accessibility-related request for an in-person event, please contact us as soon as possible (ideally, two weeks in advance). We will do our best to make accommodations.