(l. to r.) Anne Scales, Mary Fetter, Grace Miller, Christine Oatman in 1956.
Christine Oatman (with The School of Heart Rocks installation in the background) at William D. Canon Art Gallery, Carlsbad, CA 2003. Photographer: Lois Stecker.
Making art for more than forty years, Christine Oatman has created work that has ranged from large-scale outdoor work and public art projects to intimate, intricate assemblages, all showing a sensitivity to materiality and objects.
A life-long San Diegan, Oatman returned to the area in 1971 after receiving her BA from Scripps College and MFA from Cranbrook. In San Diego, she began making temporary outdoor works dealing with the California landscape. Examples of this work have been shown in museums and were featured in Lucy Lippard’s From the Center: Feminist Essays on Women’s Art and Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory.
In 1974 she received a secondary teaching credential from San Diego State University and went on to spend 36 years teaching art in San Diego, including 21 years at Palomar College in San Marcos, until she retired in 2011. Besides teaching college-level courses, she also worked often with elementary school children in city schools, doing collaborative art projects with them. Her public art projects can be seen around Southern California in Escondido, Manhattan Beach, and at Canyonside Park in Los Peñasquitos Canyon.
From around 1985, Oatman branched out from large outdoor work into smaller-scale box assemblages, altered books, and installations. Her work tends to cycle through three stages, which are 1) Outdoor temporary work, 2) A related work made in cooperation with children outdoors and 3) A related, more permanent installation that serves as a type of reliquary for the work. (See images below)
Her present body of work has continued to evolve, showing her private responses to topical issues through the lens of pedagogy, reflecting her decades of teaching experience, as well as her own classroom memories growing up in 1950s San Diego.
Oatman’s work has been shown both locally and internationally at such institutions as Seibu Museum in Tokyo, Brooklyn Museum, Kansas City Art Museum, San Diego Museum of Art, and Cannon Art Gallery in Carlsbad, with solo shows at the University Gallery at SDSU, Boehm Gallery at Palomar College, Contemporary Crafts Gallery in Portland, Oregon, Visual Arts Center of Alaska in Anchorage, San Diego International Airport and the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla.
Forming an Island Protectorate, Site specific installation, Los Penasquitos Lagoon, Torrey Pines State Reserve, Del Mar, CA, 1979. Photographer: Nita van der Werff.
Islands with kindergarten students from Cadman Elementary School, Mission Bay Park, San Diego, CA, 1982. Photographer: Vic Wintriss.
Interactive Islands exhibit at The Children's Museum of San Diego, 1983-85. Photographer: C. Oatman.
Sand Carpets, Del Mar, CA, 1979. Photographer: Nita van der Werff.
Personal Landscape Fantasies multimedia exhibit at Boehm Gallery, Palomar College, San Marcos, CA 1978. Photographer: unknown.
Wildflower Ring, Anza Borrego Desert, CA; temporary site-specific work, 1977. Photographer: Claire Meyer.