Love Letter to Lawrence Oliver iii

A person stands near a pile of brush and holds a branch over their head, stark green against a deep blue sky.
Lawrence Oliver iii, Poison Hemlock Performance, 2021.

Stepping into Lawrence Oliver iii’s world is a dazzling experience, full of glitter and laughter at discomfort. Over the last two years, I’ve worked with Oliver as a direct support provider, and unofficial artist assistant. During the pandemic’s extreme isolation, they were the person I saw most in any given week. It’s an honor to witness how they go about art making and art living. Oliver’s practice deserves more attention, but we neurodivergent people often face barriers to networking and explaining intricate inner processes in conventional ways. 

Infatuated with materials, Oliver relishes cold porcelain recipes and “living large,” collecting every color of decorative sand. They build sturdy works meant to be carried around, which lets them share progress with audiences at their local hardware store. Detailed colored pencil drawings combine specific bridges and forest paths from Hope, Arkansas, Los Angeles, and Portland into imagined landscapes. Oliver creates dreams of Queer transformation. 

Layered personal narratives transform into whimsical sculptures. Inspired by their mother’s insistence to value flowers and discard weeds, Poison Hemlock Performance, 2021 becomes a defiant performative gesture elevating a poison hemlock frond—both literally and figuratively. Oliver used a photograph documenting the event as reference to meticulously craft each branch of a fantasy flower tree. For Oliver, both the performance and sculpture embody the illicit plant’s enchanting quality. Continuing their fascination with nostalgia and world making, a childhood pastime “making boys out of clothes” evolved into a life-size figure, Joe, paper clay teeth shining and designer jeans sagging. All of Oliver’s work combines their creative impulse and a more practical functionality, whether the goal is connecting with people, interpreting memories, or bringing inscrutable magic into their community.

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