Well-known for the haunting still lifes, landscapes, and portraits inspired by his rural Texas heritage, Oliver blends mythology, religion, literature, and folktales, all filtered through a contemporary point of view.
Tracy Saucier, director at the Beeville Art Museum, described Oliver’s work as “amazing.”
“It is absolutely amazing,” she said.
“It is classical and it is beautiful but it is also very multidimensional. It has so much symbolism in it.”
What makes the exhibit special is that much of the artwork has a tie to this area.
“His father worked on the O’Connor Ranch so a lot of the subject matter is indicative of this area,” Saucier said.
About 25 of Oliver’s paintings and drawings will be on view at the Beeville Art Museum beginning Saturday, with a public opening from 5-7 p.m.
“As varied as his subjects are — be it a cowboy or a biblical scene — the underlying theme is the presence of the divine, whether it’s found in nature, expressed in Greco-Roman mythology, or described in the Bible,” Houston art critic Patricia Johnson said of his work in a news release.
Saucier was noticeably excited to have Olive’s artwork in the museum.
“I fell in love with his work through my mother,” she said. “When I first started working with the (Joe Barnhart) Foundation, I thought what a great opportunity to get his guy here...
“He is considered a master in the African American painters.”
Born in Refugio in 1943, Kermit Oliver was the son and grandson of working cowboys.
He began to study art at Texas Southern University in 1960, received a BFA and a teaching degree and lived in Houston painting and teaching until 1984, when he and his family moved to Waco.
A self-described recluse, he paints during the day and works the night shift at the local post office.
Oliver’s artwork is included in museum collections across the state, including the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Art Museum of Southeast Texas and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
In 2005, MFA Houston hosted the first retrospective exhibition of his work, entitled Notes from a Child’s Odyssey: The Art of Kermit Oliver.
Oliver was the first American ever commissioned to create silk scarf designs for Hermès of Paris, and has designed more than 15 through the years.
One of the scarves, entitled Les Ameriques, will be included in the Beeville museum show.
The Beeville Art Museum, located at 401 E. Fannin St., is open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. To contact the museum, call 361-358-8615.