Holland Cunningham in The Daily Front Row
Written by Eddie Roche
Daily Front Row Summer Issue
“This fall, Voltz Clarke Gallery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan welcomes painter Holland Cunningham for a solo show, Details, running from November 17th through the end of the year. THE DAILY SUMMER get the scoop from the artist herself on what they show will look like and how photography plays a key role in her work.” -Eddie Roche
You’ve shown with Voltz Clarke Gallery; How did your relationship with them begin?
I met Blair Clarke through a mutual friend almost 20 years ago. At the time Voltz Clarke was an art advisory business. In a way we have grown together.
What will the show look like?
Very good question. I have been trying to visualize it myself. There will definitely be a mix. I have not shown my abstract work in a very long time so there will be a bit of that next to the more figurative work and pieces inspired by spending time in Rome. I hope to have a few paintings from the “other peoples memories” series as well. That is the work that is inspired by found photography. I am not sure how it will fit in but I am working on it.
How do you describe your work?
I tend to work in series. And I always have at least 3 different things in progress at one time. Currently I am focusing on photographs that I took while in Rome this past spring. But there is always the box of random photographs taken by strangers that tempts me. I have even made a few small sculptures of empty pools from a series I worked on a lot last year. I prefer to work on a small scale because I find it more intimate and I like that the viewer has to take the time to get close to the work. But I am also trying to free things up a bit and make some larger pieces on board and on paper as I have done in the past.
How does photography connect to your work?
Photography plays a big part in my work. Thirty years ago I was more a photographer than a painter. I studied art history and photography in college. I am interested in the language of photography in painting. (That is how a close photographer friend described my paintings) -An instant in time that oftentimes holds more memories and meaning than the image itself suggests.
When did you start working on the works in this collection?
Some of the work I started years ago but most of what I am doing today began while I was at the American Academy in Rome. I keep sketchbooks where I not only make drawings and paintings in gouache and watercolor but I also write about ideas or things that inspire me…. I am also known to write down meals – especially when I am Italy. One can find a painting of palazzo or garden on one side and on the other side a description of the risotto or pizza I ate that same day. I am always entertained when I go back to look at my sketchbooks- there are many.
What is the theme throughout your work?
Memory and what remains. Whether it is an ancient fresco in an ash covered palazzo in Pompeii or a moment in time of someone’s family snapshot. Both are times past, but yet the memory remains.
Your works have humor in them. Are you a funny person or a great observationalist of funny things?
Both. I try to find humor in just about everything. Life is more fun that way. I am afraid the work from Rome is not so funny but I will find a way to bring humor into some of it….. It may just be in the title. I am not sure yet.
You spent 6 weeks at the American Academy in Rome. What was that like?
Best creative experience I have ever had. As a visiting artist there I was surrounded by The Rome Prize winners and other visiting artists in every creative discipline. One couldn’t help but be inspired at every turn.
Where else did you study?
I studied Art History and studio art (mostly photography) at University of Virginia. I continued to study when I moved to New York at the Arts Student League, The National Academy, and New York School of the Arts with the artist Maurizio Pellegrin from Venice- probably the very one who has most helped me to develop as an artist over the last 10 years. I was a fellow at the Bau Institute in Puglia several years ago.
Who are some artists who have inspired you?
The photographer Luigi Ghirri- I love the way he saw the world- His compositions were brilliant and also humorous at times. Gerhard Richter- especially his photorealistic paintings. Michael Borremans – an amazing painter of such an interesting and strange world he has created. I could look at his paintings and works on paper for hours. He fascinates me. All of the great fresco painters- Piero della Francesca, Ghirlandaio. Tiepolo’s palette is always inspiring. A real variety there but all equally inspirational in all their different ways.
You are a resident of Quogue. Do you work out here?
I’ve been in Quogue for over 20 years and I do have a small studio here. I find myself in the city once a week to work in my studio on Chrystie Street. It is big and bright and there are very few distractions. In Quogue there is always the gorgeous beach, tennis, and family and friends to keep me distracted. My family and I enjoy winter weekends with a fire as much as the long summer days.
What’s next for you?
A morning swim in the ocean with my husband, mixed doubles later this afternoon and at least 3 hours in the studio with the door shut and podcast on. I have been listening to The Great Women Artists and Talk Art. I am planning a painting trip to Sicily in early fall.
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