Skip to Content

Search: {{$root.lsaSearchQuery.q}}, Page {{$}}

Harbingers of Dreams
by Teresa Tolliver
Paula and Edwin Sidman Fellow in the Arts

September 13 – October 13, 2023
Institute for the Humanities Gallery, 202 S. Thayer
Gallery hours: M-F 9am-5pm


Related Events

Opening Reception and artist conversation with Teresa Tolliver and Curator Amanda Krugliak
Wednesday, September 13, 2023
Institute for the Humanities Gallery, 202 S. Thayer


Meet & Greet and Artist Demo with Teresa Tolliver
Thursday, September 14, 2023
Trotter Multicultural Center, Sankofa Lounge, 428 S. State

Born in 1945, artist, educator, and mentor Teresa Tolliver has lived and worked in South Central L.A. for three decades. In 2022, she opened her first one-woman show at the prominent Sebastian Gladstone Gallery. Most recently, her work has been chosen for inclusion as part of L.A.’s Hammer Museum Biennial, which runs concurrently with her exhibition Harbingers of Dreams in the Institute for the Humanities Gallery.

Tolliver refers to her process as “creative recycling”: forging found and thrifted materials, and repurposing them. These frenetic bundles of coils, adornments, wires, and loose ends express the artist’s feelings, perspectives, and everyday way of living.

Earlier works of the artist are on a smaller scale and doll-like. They are intimate, imaginative references to Tolliver’s own girlhood in a world lacking adequate or authentic representations of Black life.

Tolliver’s more recent figurative assemblages are life-size, larger-than-life, looming. They command space and celebrate it. There is an inherent connection between these sculptures and the long-established history of African American yard art, where plants, statuary, and artistic creations communicate themes of personal space, freedom of expression, and dreams of independence. Tolliver’s bold visual choices and material combinations are refusals of outside value judgments and hierarchies.

When visiting artist Teresa Tolliver's home studio, one expects the figures will spring to life, otherworldly. They seem to gather and congregate. There are no distractions from the outside, save the light coming through the window. Through subtle details like molding, furniture, and drawers inspired by Tolliver’s own domestic space, Harbingers of Dreams attempts to capture the resplendent and spiritual nature of such a visit, with the opportunity to sit among the artist’s creations.

Tolliver’s figurative sculptures appear as embodiments of the city of L.A. and its diverse communities and neighborhoods. They are assemblages of disparate influences, esthetics, and materials: prefab, handmade, urban, nostalgic, opulent, functional, garish, and celestial. A visual cacophony of colors, influences, designs, and forms, each figure beckons us towards futures in the making.

–Amanda Krugliak, IH Arts Curator

Teresa Tolliver is an artist who excels in ceramics, painting, and mixed media. Tolliver also has over 25 years of experience as an arts educator working with children, youth, and adults; she has partnered, among others, with the Theater of Hearts/Youth First, the California Youth Authority, The Music Center, the African American Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A native of Los Angeles, Tolliver always wanted to be an artist as a child, but “in the black neighborhood, you were not encouraged to be an artist because it’s not a steady career.” Tolliver became a secretary but could not let her yearnings for an art career be forgotten. So she studied art at California State University, Northridge. However, she believes she learned more on her own than in formal settings. What she discovers in her search for knowledge is joyfully incorporated into her work—including, she says, “the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Tolliver had been teaching ceramics for over ten years when she got a lesson in throwing from Master ceramist, Michael Frimkess that sent her to the wheel for “nine or ten hours every day.” Similarly, she was teaching African wrap dolls when she discovered the wrap dolls of South America and their use of natural materials. Cultures that “don’t have a lot of money have to look around in nature to see what they can use to create art.” 

Her search for found objects takes her far and wide “to the Children’s Museum, behind factories, and to swap meets two to three times a week. I try to find materials all the time. If I am driving by a factory and I see something I could use, I make a U-turn and go back and get it. I love sharing and passing on my knowledge as an artist to the next generation.

Teresa Tolliver is the Paula and Edwin Sidman Fellow in the Arts. This exhibition is part of LSA’s fall 2023 Arts & Resistance theme semester.