Painter Loie Hollowell transforms the personal into the universal.
Q: How quickly do you work? From sketch to realization, is there a typical time it takes for you to create a finished piece? What's your typical process?
All my paintings begin with pastel drawings in which I work out the composition and color. When the drawing is done, I’ll make notes in the margins to remind myself of things I’d like to change for the painting. One of the paintings currently on view in my show at Pace Gallery took over a year to realize. I made the drawing for that painting in 2017 and finally finished the painting it was based on at the end of 2018. Most of the time I spend a few days on a drawing and then it sits around for a few months before I make it into a painting. From start to finish the actual sculpting up of my painting surface and the oil painting itself takes about a month from start to finish.
Q: How do you create the textures in your paintings? Have you always been drawn to more tactile and sculptural elements on the canvas, or is this a newer development?
I would call myself a wrist drawer and painter. I’m not moving my whole arm when I make marks. I’m not a gestural painter. I’m a pretty neurotic person, so a tight and controlled wrist movement comes naturally to me. Actually my moves don’t scale up too much from pastel to painting. When viewed from afar, the paintings look as if they could have been airbrushed. I like that as you move closer, the slightly varied movements of my swirled wrist stroke come into focus. A few years ago I started drawing and painting with these swirling marks because I was trying to create the sensation of hair and then found that it was a great blending technique.
Since the paintings have the added relief element (I’ve been working with relief since 2015), I wanted to enhance the edges that were at a 45-degree angle to the their surfaces—they were not immediately visible to a viewer standing directly in front of the paintings. I used a dish sponge to apply a thick carpet of paint to these surfaces so that the light would reflect off of them and encourage viewers to move around the work to see these different textures.
Loie Hollowell, Point of Entry (lingam between teal circles), From the Beginning (inversed), The Lands Part (yellow, blue and green), 2017, © Loie Hollowell, Courtesy of Pace Gallery
Q: Your show Plumb Line is opening at Pace Gallery this month featuring your largest works to date. What made you decide to increase in scale? Can you tell us a bit more about how this body of work came to be? How was it working on pieces relating so directly to your pregnancy?
The paintings in Plumb Line are all 6 x 4.5 feet. I chose this scale so that I could fit within the rectangle. You see, all the paintings are full body self portraits depicting different stages of my body and mind pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and postpartum. In these paintings I break my body into five elements: head, breasts, pregnant belly, vagina, and butt. These elements are situated on a vertical or horizontal stream of light. The light stream acts as a spine in the vertically oriented compositions. When placed horizontally, it’s a seat, shelf, or bed from which my butt hangs and torso is supported. Throughout the pregnancy and postpartum, it felt as if my body was breaking down and being rearranged, which in a way it was. Therefore, in these paintings my body is bisected, dissected, and treated as modular shapes to be reconfigured along the vertical and horizontal axis. In these paintings the color of my body parts indicate how I was feeling at the time, which is also documented by the configuration of shapes. In contrast to the pure hues of my body parts, the background colors are tinted, toned, and shaded. This way the figure pops visually as well as physically since it’s the only sculpted area. Along with the titles of the paintings, there are illustrative cues in these backgrounds that tell the story of the physical state of my body.
“Sex and pregnancy are elements of life that everyone has experience with either directly or through a loved one.”
Q: Have you found that there is an increased vulnerability in creating work that is known to be autobiographical?
Yes, but that vulnerability is an inspiration. Sex and pregnancy are elements of life that everyone has experience with either directly or through a loved one. I’m interested in taking these experiences that feel so personal and depicting them in paint to express their universality.
Loie Hollowell, Milk Fountain, Birthing Dance in Green, 2019, 2018, © Loie Hollowell, Courtesy of Pace Gallery
Q: Your work relates to that of iconic female artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe, Judy Chicago, Hilma af Klint - do feel feel a kinship to these (or any other) female artists that have come before you? Is there a pressure to continue on a specific trajectory?
Of course I feel a kinship to these artists, and there is never a pressure to continue on any trajectory except for the one that comes from within. All of the art goddesses (living and dead) have taught me that.
Q: Do you think being female changes the way your art is viewed, especially due to its sexual and personal nature?
I can not speak for the viewer. All I can say is that it is hard to view art in a vacuum.
Loie Hollowell, Red Pendulum, 2017, © Loie Hollowell,Courtesy of Pace Gallery