Daniel Oliva

Recent Work

Archived Work

Artist's Biography

I am a Philadelphia-based artist who holds an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, Philadelphia and a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore. I am a member of the NAPOLEON collective. I have exhibited at The Galleries at Moore, Goggleworks Art Center, Pentimenti Gallery, NAPOLEON, Marginal Utility, and Bridgette Mayer Gallery. Exhibitions that I have co-curated include Immigration Now at Penn State Abington and Exquisite Form: A Fiber Invitational, at Allens Lane Art Center in Philadelphia. I am an adjunct Professor at Penn State University, Abington and Drexel University, Philadelphia, and was an undergraduate instructor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design.

Artist's Statement

My work addresses socially conscious concerns around eternal human issues of group power dynamics, social identity and how they express themselves through economic and social inequality. Status and hierarchy between social groups is a major theme of life in the United States. I aim to illuminate the vast social system surrounding each of us and clarify how it benefits certain groups over others. I research the history of American housing inequality based on racist segregation, exclusion, and exploitation.

The American home and the “American dream” are conjoined ideas that have a rich and historical presence in culture, but also affect our nation’s citizens in the most personal ways. We Americans do not seek one idealized roof over our heads, but we all want some form of security and equal opportunity for growth, education and lasting family bonds. Our current social landscape is blatantly unequal in such vicious and widespread ways that most of us are overwhelmed by any attempt to make sense of it. The causes and consequences of inequality can be described with sociological studies and graphs using historical analysis, but as an artist, I seek pull from these forms to evoke history, rather than simply explain it.

In order to maintain truthfulness in representation I almost always begin with a real place and explore its history, building a mix of characters, settings, and signs until the image feels as real as the history of that place. I focus on creating anachronistic tableaus, where within the frame one can observe three or four different periods and understand possible trajectories of cause-and-effect over decades. The street may be in the 1950s, but everything above the first story could be in 2018. Viewers can see inside and outside of buildings, being welcomed to identify with the interior lives of strangers.

My practice includes various approaches to drawing, painting and photography that combine realistic rendering, diagramming, abstraction and cartooning. By using realistic techniques and architectural language (cutaways, cross-sections, plan views, isometric and linear perspective) I engage with people’s imaginations because they can be pulled into the space and structure of the image. They can visualize themselves walking through these streets, hallways, and rooms. By using diagrammatic notation and non-objective marks and color, I can shift the conceptual and emotional tone of the work. Diagrammatic communication speaks to the idea that society is planned, structures are designed by ideology as much as for aesthetics and function. With the goal of clarifying our history of inequality in order to find new solutions, the metaphor of “architecture” speaks about the larger system that we often struggle to understand, and only through the use of imaginative intelligence can the viewer navigate such a maze.

Selected Exhibitions

White Constructions, NAPOLEON, Philadelphia, PA

Selected Works, Green Line Café, Philadelphia, PA

Shock Waves, (site-specific installation) Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Daniel Oliva: New Works, Ryan John Art Salon, Philadelphia, PA

Nightcaps, Painted Bride Art Center Café Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

At the Same Time, Goggleworks Art Center, Reading, PA

The One You Know, NoBa Art Space, Bala Cynwyd, PA

Float, NAPOLEON Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Photography As Social Conscience: Impassioned Portrayals of Race in the U.S., Lore Degestein Gallery, Susquehanna University, Selingsgrove, PA

Amplify & Multiply, Coburn Gallery, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO

Heads of State, Hamilton Street Gallery, Bound Brook, NJ

Penn State Abington Faculty Exhibition, Penn State University Abington Campus, Abington, PA

Do It, The Galleries at Moore, Philadelphia, PA

Benefit Exhibition, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

North by Northwest, a CITYWIDE Exhibition curated by Mount Airy Contemporary Artist Space, Marginal Utility, Philadelphia, PA

Benefit Exhibition, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

University of Pennsylvania MFA Thesis Exhibition, Exhale Unlimited, Los Angeles, CA (curated by Alex Klein, Program Coordinator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA)

Astronomy, About Glamour Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

Five Pack Philly, Dot and Irma’s Studio, Philadelphia, PA

Northwest Artists Collective, Duel Exhibition, Mount Airy Contemporary Artists Space and Allens Lane Art Center, Philadelphia, PA

Silent Spaces, Sam Quinn Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Live With It, Photo West Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Northwest Artists Collective, Sedgwick Cultural Center, Philadelphia, PA

Summer in the City, Painted Bride Art Center, Philadelphia, PA

Group Exhibition, Gallery Siano, Philadelphia, PA

From the Studio III, Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Philadelphia, PA

Regional Community Arts Program Exhibition, Einstein Hospital, Philadelphia, PA

Landscape Revisited, Main Line Art Center, Haverford, PA


Untitled, private collection

New Orleans, private collection

Cascades West (Depoe Bay), private collection

His, Hers, Theirs, private collection

Artist's Publicity

Chip Schwartz, “Mount Airy Contemporary paints Marginal Utility for Citywide”, Knight Arts Challenge Newsletter, November 14, 2013

Alison McMenamin, “Shock Waves at Sundown –Daniel Oliva’s Window Installation at Pentimenti”, The Artblog, August 19, 2011

Susan Lewis, “Interview with Daniel Oliva”, WRTI Radio, September 11, 2010

Lori Hill, “First Friday Focus”, Citypaper, April 5-April 12, 2007

Professional Experience


Member, NAPOLEON art collective, Philadelphia, PA
Exhibitions Committee member, Allens Lane Art Center, Philadelphia,

Member, College Art Association

President, The Northwest Artists Collective, Philadelphia, PA

Regional Community Arts Program, Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Philadelphia, PA

Curatorial Projects

Co-Curator, Immigration Now, Penn State Abington Art Gallery, Abington, PA

Co-curator, Exquisite Form: A Fiber Invitational, Allens Lane Art Center, Philadelphia, PA


Visiting artist, Germantown Academy, Fort Washington, PA

Visiting artist/critic, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD

Guest lecturer, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD

Teaching Experience

2017 - present
Adjunct Lecturer, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
- Introduction to Drawing

2016 - present
Instructor for Design Foundation, Summer Art and Design Initiative, Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia, PA

2014 - present
Adjunct Lecturer, Penn State University Abington Campus, Abington, PA
- Contemporary Art Seminar, Painting, Figure Drawing, Visual Thinking, Ancient Through Gothic Art History, Introduction to the Visual Arts (ART 1). I developed the first online version of ART 1 as well as regularly teaching the classroom lecture and newly modified studio versions

2014 - 2015
Adjunct Instructor, Delaware County Community College, Media, PA
- Drawing I, Watercolor Painting, Photography, 2D Design

2013 - 2016
Drawing Instructor, Mount Airy Learning Tree, Philadelphia, PA

Recipient of PennDesign Teaching Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, School of Design, Philadelphia, PA
- Drawing 1

Drawing I Teacher’s Assistant, University of Pennsylvania, School of Design, Philadelphia, PA

Figure Drawing 1 and 2 Teacher’s Assistant, University of Pennsylvania, School of Design, Philadelphia, PA

Drawing I Teacher’s Assistant, University of Pennsylvania, School of Design, Philadelphia, PA


Portfolio Reviewer, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD

Contributing essayist, Kay Healy: What is Real, NAPOLEON Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Creator and MC, The Art Slam, Competition Between Artists… In Front of a Live Audience

Guest Juror, Conshohocken Arts League, Annual Exhibition


Master of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania School of Design, Philadelphia, PA

Bachelor of Fine Arts, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD

Semester Abroad, Syracuse University, Florence, Italy