Oleda 2007

Born in Plant City, Florida, near Tampa, in 1934, Oleda Baker was raised in Miami. At age 26, married and the mother of a 1 ½ year son, she traveled to New York City to become a high fashion TV and photographers' model. Her modeling career, primarily under contract with the prestigious Wilhelmina Agency, was her main activity for the next dozen years . . . but that's not all she did.

While still modeling, she authored her first book, The Model's Way to Beauty, Slenderness and Glowing Health, published by Prentice-Hall. She went on to produce seven more Beauty/Health books, published by Doubleday, Putnam and Ballantine, as well as a quasi-autobiographical novel, titled Reluctant Goddess, published by Jove. She promoted the books touring the country doing TV Talk Show, Radio and Newspaper interviews.

Still modeling and while writing her second book, I Hate to Make Up (Prentice-Hall), Oleda founded Oleda and Company, Inc.(1971), a Beauty/Health/Anti-aging products company, specializing in Skin Care, Hair Care, Vitamins and Supplements, Makeup, and Spa Products, among others.

Today, Oleda is still CEO of Oleda and Company, Inc. that now offers some 300 products internationally and maintains an extensive Web site, www.oleda.com.

Oleda Age 36

Oleda Begins to Paint

At age 36, still modeling for Wilhelmina and writing her early books, Oleda developed an inexplicable, strong desire to put her feelings on canvas. So, one day she simply walked into one of New York City's art supply stores and purchased everything in sight in order to get started. She had never had a brush in her hand, nor had she ever had a lesson in Art-and to this day still has not-but somehow she knew she just had to paint; and she discovered she had an uncanny, innate talent for it.

After completing her first ten paintings, a dear friend and art collector, whose personal collection included original Monet's and Rembrandt's, on seeing Oleda's work took her to show three of her paintings to art expert Victor Hammer of Hammer Galleries. Mr. Hammer, although he disavowed his expertise in naïve art, thought enough of them to have them sent to Mr. Otto Kallir, a renowned expert in the field.

Mr. Kallir wanted to see more, so Oleda took three additional canvases and met with him in his Manhattan studio. Mr. Kallir thought so highly of Oleda's work that he invited her to be one of five artists in the last show he would give before retiring. "I will introduce you as my new, young artist," he said.

Sadly, Oleda could not accept this wonderful offer. Mr. Kallir wanted thirty paintings from her for his show, which was only a few months away, and Oleda, so new to painting, and not sure of herself, didn't know if she could paint even one more, much less produce that many in so short a time. Moreover, she was then under contract with a publisher to complete a new beauty/health book, she was still modeling for Wilhelmina, and she was working on the startup of her new company. Taking on another project of completing twenty more paintings was just too much to commit to. Still, Oleda's elation that such a famous art expert would even consider her work stimulated in her an even stronger desire to paint.

In the 1980's Oleda had two shows in New York City at which many of her paintings were sold. One collector of naïve art, Mr. Allen Fortunoff, purchased three of her works.

In 1986, Oleda was invited to exhibit her paintings at the Wichita Art Association Museum. They exhibited thirty canvases and asked her to be guest speaker at the museum's members' only dinner, introducing her as the "New York Naïve Fantasy Painter." They also arranged TV talk show and newspaper interviews to help promote the museum and Oleda's art. The museum bought one of the paintings, My Sister, Francey, for their collection,

Shortly after that, Oleda closed her studio in New York and moved her residence to Texas where, for the next eighteen years she focused on the operation of Oleda and Company, Inc., and, without a studio in which to do so, produced no paintings during that period.

Oleda's Artistic Rebirth

Oleda and her husband, Richard, were married in 2001 taking up residence in Boca Raton, Florida. Richard, after seeing Oleda's paintings and pictures of her previous work, and sensing her deep desire and love of creating oil on canvas, had an art studio constructed on their home so that Oleda could begin painting again. Delayed by the damage caused by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, the studio was finally completed in 2006. Ever since its completion, Oleda, after more than twenty years without a brush in her hand, has been in it almost every day, once again painting her feelings. After the studio was built, a dear friend, well known in the art world, inspired Oleda to take her work very seriously. She is doing just that

Oleda's paintings express beautiful thoughts, flowers, animals, birds, trees, angels, happiness, friendship, and most of all, love and peace…it's very rare that she will paint an unhappy canvas…but when she does ….it's still an expression of her feelings!



Artist’s Statement

I get a unique, inexplicable feeling when I step in front of a canvas.  It’s as if I’m in a cocoon, accompanied by visions, hopelessly lost, to be released only as my fantasies take shape in the oil.  Sometimes, I feel as though I’m inside the picture itself, painting the scene around me. They are all an expression of my feelings and fantasies about flowers, trees, birds, animals, peace, femininity, love, nature and people. 

What goes, and does not go, on a canvas excites me at every brush stroke.  Which colors, which animals, which tree type or the shape of the flowers, do I fantasize this time?  Which paintbrush will produce the effect I’m looking for?   My mind races at every turn making decisions….every single leaf is important…my emotions surge. I might fill the studio with music—often loud, sometimes soft—but sometimes not, so that I can savor the quiet…depending on my mood, or the particular scene I’m working on. I often become oblivious to time until I step back to see what’s there.      

I work only in oils. I love the consistency and depth I can create with them. Oils are more fun and more forgiving when I want to make a change. I love the texture, how thick they can be yet so thin when diluted.  I work mostly with very small paintbrushes of various shapes and sizes, although I use larger ones for background when I begin.

Sometimes I work on 3 or 4 canvases at the same time waiting for the oils to dry on a section of one or two as I’m painting the others. I keep rotating so I don’t have to stop painting during dry time. People ask how long it takes me to complete a painting, but I don’t know since it varies so much.  There’s no fixed timetable.  “It takes as long as I need to get it right,” I tell them.

I start with a preconceived picture in my mind, without complete details, such as where will each of the flowers grow.  The overview helps keep the painting in balance while I maintain flexibility without losing the vision. The feelings behind my paintings go deep…it’s as if the ideas and visions are down in a well and I must bring them to the surface and give them life…there seems always to be many waiting there.

I paint what I imagine, sometimes specific, most times surreal, As an untutored artist, my style is untainted by rules.  My mind can be filled with unrealistic ideas and I’m free to paint whatever I feel. I want to create an intimate feeling between my work and the viewer.

My studio overlooks a small garden, a lake, many trees and window boxes I can fill with beautiful flowers growing year round.  They are all part of my cocoon.   I designed the studio myself.  It has a long curved counter on one side that I sit at on a movable high back chair. While working, my canvas sits either on an easel on top of the counter or lies flat or at an angle; sometimes I stand a canvas on the floor or upside down. There is hardly any position a painting has not been through by the time I finish with it.

I still find it difficult to let a painting go -- to part with it at any price.  They are part of me, my dreams, my fantasies, my stories.  But I have come to understand that, if someone takes my painting into their home, the life I’ve given to my dream is shared and thereby expanded.