Teresa Tolliver has worked in different mediums, including ceramics and painting, throughout her more than three-decade career. Assemblage—a wide-ranging practice that involves the use of diverse materials, especially found objects, in a single sculpture—has been a constant for her. Assemblage has ties to the Black diaspora, including a strong history in Los Angeles, particularly in South Los Angeles, where Tolliver is from and continues to live. She draws on these histories and uses things that emerge from her everyday life, as well as craft materials and mass-produced objects, to create figurative sculptures that range from the handheld, in the case of doll-like works, to life-size and beyond, in the case of a series based on animals. In some works, we encounter raffia, papier-mâché, ribbons, and organic matter, while in others we see handmade ceramics and found objects, such as elements of outdoor furniture and decorative home goods. These works evidence Tolliver’s ability to transform the familiar into something fantastical and the expansive visual possibilities of working serially. They are a testament to the creative and formal freedom contained within the act of making and to the act of making as a value in and of itself and as a wellspring of life.
Teresa Tolliver (b. 1945, Los Angeles) received a BFA from California State University, Northridge, in 1971 and apprenticed with Michael Frimkess from 1983 to 1988. Tolliver has more than thirty-five years of experience working as an arts educator with various organizations, including Theatre of Hearts / Youth First, California Youth Authority, the Music Center, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Her work has been exhibited at the California African American Museum, Los Angeles (2013, 2010, 2004); Watts Towers Art Center, Los Angeles (2012); and the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles (2000), among other sites. She is a recipient of awards and grants from the California Arts Council (1988, 1991, 1993), the National Endowment for the Arts (1988), and the cities of Los Angeles (2017, 2006, 2005, 2002, 2001, 1992, 1989) and Pasadena (1997).