Vibrant. Colorful. Engaging. Unconfined. As Joe Schiavo recalls, the words apply equally to Olga Moore’s works as to the life and career of the late Rutgers University–Camden professor of art.
“She was a free spirit. She always did what she felt that she needed to do,” recalls Schiavo, associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers–Camden. “It is reflected in the colors and the vibrancy of what she puts on paper; you can see it in the color schemes and the angles.”Several of Moore’s works will be featured in the new exhibition, “Camden Collects,” courtesy of Schiavo and Roberta Tarbell, professor emerita of art history. The exhibit, to be held from July 7 to Sept. 18 in the Stedman Gallery on the Rutgers–Camden campus, showcases artworks and objects collected by individuals living or working in the City of Camden. For more details on the exhibit, check out NewsNow.
According to Schiavo, he has always admired Moore’s art, which evolved through different phases and consistently incorporated her varied interests. “For instance, I see her love of textiles in these works,” says Schiavo, who cites her frequent trips to Morocco to immerse herself in the culture and fabrics. “She has so many different textures, with the angular objects and the squiggle lines. It was all part of the woven fabric that she was so interested in.”
Looking back, Schiavo paints the portrait of a brilliant artist, an engaging and trusted colleague, and an exacting educator. He recalls that, as a Rutgers–Camden music student, he struck up a friendship with Moore in 1978, her first year on campus. “We just started talking and really hit it off,” says Schiavo, a 1982 graduate of Rutgers–Camden. “She was a very open person, and was always interested in hearing about things in my life as I was about hers.”
When Schiavo joined the music faculty several years later, the two gained a mutual respect and admiration for one another’s unfailing work ethics – a quality, which many students can attest, she also demanded in them.“She was always stern and tough when she taught; there was no pleasing her,” recalls Allan Espiritu, one of her former students who is now an associate professor of fine arts at Rutgers–Camden. “It was only to get the best out of us, and to realize that we needed to please ourselves first. She was and continues to be a huge influence on me.”
As Espiritu recalls, Moore taught him design, but more importantly, instilled invaluable life lessons, such as confidence and perseverance, infused with a “wicked” sense of humor. “She taught many of us to be a free spirit and to be brave!” says the 1993 graduate of Rutgers–Camden, noting Moore was the principal reason that he, too, wanted to teach at the university. “She gave me so much that I wanted to somehow keep that spirit alive and spread it on into the future.”
Upon her retirement in 2004, Moore entrusted Schiavo with her extensive collection of personal works. She simply moved around too much to hold on to them, he says, noting that she lived, amongst other places, on a farm in Michigan, and in cities such as Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia, never staying more than brief stretches at a time. “Olga was a nomad,” says Schiavo. “That was one of the quirky things about her.”
True to form, Moore then took a job – albeit, one still on the move – as a painting instructor for several cruise ships, including the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, a post that she held until shortly before her death on January 4, 2013.
“I miss her a lot,” says Schiavo. “She was a fabulous colleague, a great artist and teacher, and a wonderful friend.”