Oke Garden Gallery Art
Professor Oke took inspiration from her love of gardens when creating these pieces of art.
Photo by Carly Greaves

Oke Presents ‘In the Garden’ Exhibit in Gallery G

Kristina Bubb

Manchester University’s new art exhibit in the Jo Young Switzer Center features artwork from Ejenobo Oke, Associate Professor of Art.

From Oct. 21 through April 7, Gallery G will hold Ejenobo “Jena” Oke’s art as part of an Alumni series. Oke graduated from Manchester College, now University, in 1997. She received her Bachelor of Arts and later received her Master of Fine Arts from Old Dominion University in 2001.

When Oke started in the work force, she spent five years teaching at Ford Middle School before returning to Manchester University. She currently teaches an assortment of art education classes like Basic Design and Graphic Design.

While Oke lives in Indiana, she is a Nigerian American who spent her childhood in Nigeria. She moved back to the United States with her family in 1987. Oke found her interest in art during her high school years at John Glenn. She explored art during college where she studied techniques like painting and fiber investigation. She uses these techniques to create her art piece today, but she found her inspiration from her life experiences.

Oke’s current art exhibit, In the Garden, features multiple quilts that decorate the walls as well as stoneware doll statues. The focus of these quilts stays true to Oke’s theme of garden escape. When first coming into the exhibition, there are papers detailing Oke’s vision of her art pieces.

“I enjoy everything about the gardens—the plants, the flowers, the critters, the person I am when I am in that space,” Oke wrote. “In this body of work, I chose to revel in those feeling about the gardens I love so much. It is not a cohesive, well-planned out powerful collection of art to be analyzed and pored over. Rather, like my gardens, the works are the bits and pieces, the plants and characters that fascinate and comfort me.”

Oke’s quilting technique appears to be free motion, which allows more accurate stitching while still maintaining the standard quilting look. Oke’s fabrics are mostly hand dyed as well as include some commercial products like in her work, Lynn’s Orchid. This art piece uses hand dyed for her flower and its petals, and a commercial fabric for its background.

In the Garden’s stoneware pieces contain doll-like creatures. Some, like Bunny Boy and The Lamb use underglazes. Underglazes are used to give a piece of pottery, or in this case stone, color. Underglazes are used before you apply a clear glaze overtop to seal it. Oke’s other stone pieces also use iron oxide. This gives a more overall red tone to it. The Three Graces features crayons as well as India Ink, which gives a bright contrast to butterflies standing on the dark wood.

Oke’s other quilt, Turtle Quilt, features hand dyed, handstitched cotton fabrics, with various embellishments. These embellishments and combination with fabric create depth and texture. While this is not one of her flower quilts, it still follows In the Garden’s focus. “Height, texture, color, direct sun, partial shade—I understand these are things to consider but things get away from me. I get caught up in the escape, the joy, the quiet peace when I can just be present in those garden spaces,” Oke wrote.