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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Western chapter.

Fine-arts is one of the hardest art forms out there because it’s not just art, it’s a celebration. A celebration of someone’s beliefs, someone’s culture, someone’s emotions, someone’s uniqueness, someone’s life experience—a celebration of one’s identity, embodied into a single object by a person who shares this celebration.

A single piece of art can convey the message of thousands of hearts and souls without using a single letter from the lexicon. This is an adventure only a few brave souls embark upon and this article is about one such soul.

     Olivia Andrade with some of her artwork, photo by Rebecca Adamson.

Celebrating her belief in equality, her passion for feminism, and her love for her culture through her art, Olivia Andrade is one of my favorite people. She is a third-year student at Western University majoring in Women’s Studies. Anyone who knows her even a little can say that she is an inspiring force, grounded in her beliefs and ethics with an immense amount of empathy for people.  

Growing up with learning disabilities, Andrade communicated through her arts. She was inspired by her babysitter who was an artist herself. With the inspiration and support, Andrade’s art became her escape and eventually her sanctuary.

“In my drawings, I was a model or a rock star or a princess,” says Andrade. “I was anything that I wanted to be. Art keeps me sane. It’s what drives me and I love it.”

Andrade had an obsession with artists, reading every small book she could find that was based on an artist. She was fascinated and inspired by these books. The artist she idolizes most is Edgar Degas, famous for painting and sculpting ballerinas.

     Art by Edgar Degas.

However, painting is not the only art form in Andrade’s life. She studied dancing for 14 years, and one of her goals at the time was to look as beautiful as one of Degas’ ballerinas. She was nine when she first saw one of Degas’ works.

“I cried so hard that the crowd around me got emotional,” Andrade says. “It was so overwhelming that I never forgot what it felt like.”

Andrade’s love for her culture is wonderfully reflected in her artwork. Her artwork is hugely inspired by art styles emanating from her birth country, New Zealand.

“It is very floral and uniquely focused. It’s so raw and beautiful,” she says.

     Artwork by Olivia Andrade.

Andrade believes that this style of art is in her blood and she feels pride in representing her culture in her paintings. She loves the Māori art (belonging to the Māori people in New Zealand) for its bold designs and symbolism.

      Māori art from New Zealand

Andrade has done several paintings and drawings, but the artwork that struck me the most was her body art. Not only because it is beautiful, but also because of the message she is able to convey through this style.

     Body art by Andrade.

“Feminism is a very new concept in my life. I have always agreed with the ideas but I never knew what it meant. I knew what a feminist was, I just didn’t know I was one until I came to university.”

An outspoken feminist, Andrade does not believe in shying away from stating her opinions about feminism, racism, sexual assault, equality and self-love. For Andrade, her art is her form of communication and she expresses her beliefs through her body art.

Being an artist has never been an easy task. The biggest social challenge Andrade faces is that people treat her art as a hobby, not a career.

“As a disabled woman, people assume art is an easy cop-out for me which is super offensive. My art tells a story. I am not just making doodles. I am making fucking masterpieces and I have no shame in saying that.”

     Photo by Rebecca Adamson.

Fine-arts is a difficult mountain to conquer in itself but the lack of support and prejudice against those who venture into this amazing journey make it even harder. To all the artists out there reading this article, Andrade has some words for you: “Use the title artist. Some people shy away from it because they are not classically trained or a professional. If you make art, you are an artist. Declaring yourself as that is a huge way to encourage confidence in your ability and talents. Don’t let people belittle your abilities. Always remember that art is subjective. What is ugly to one is a masterpiece to someone else. Don’t concern yourself with others’ opinions.”

Olivia has had an Instagram account dedicated to her artwork since grade 12. You can visit her page here.

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Shefali Bhatt

Western '20

Shefali is a third-year student pursuing honors specialization in Animal Behavior with a certificate in digital communication. She loves almost everything in the world but traveling, adventure and writing about her thoughts and experiences is the closest to her heart.
1 cup vibrancy, 1/2 cup feisty, a few tablespoons of crazy, and a dash of witty all popped in the oven in the year of 2000.
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