A Day in the Life
Douglas Fairfield, former art critic for the Santa Fe New Mexican, wrote of Holly Roberts "What goes on in Holly Roberts' studio is her business. What comes out of it is another story and points to one of the most imaginative image-makers in New Mexico, let alone in the United States." Holly Roberts has been producing art for over thirty years and has achieved many prestigious awards, exhibitions, and entrances into collections including two awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and a place in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work is a combination of richly layered painted panels and her photography collaged into the work. The result of this marriage of media - painting and auto-collage - is one that is at times magical, witty, frightening, mysterious but always captivating.
Holly Roberts' work has changed over the past three decades in that she started with one process and then reversed it with incredible results. Starting from a deeply introspective place, the reversal thus changed to a more outward view of her world. Her earlier works were photographs obscured with oil paint that gave them a strange haunting yet ethereal quality. The photos underneath and the paint on top gave a sense of an x-ray yet blurred, the subject morphed into an almost dreamlike state. Then, 10 years ago, Roberts reversed her process - again creating abstract textural layers of paint on panel and constructing her figures out of different parts of her own photographs adhered to her lushly painted backgrounds. This process, with which she continues to work with to this day, reflects a more outward reflection on life - where as the older works were very introspective. This new process narrates stories, reflects on myths, general concepts and issues that face the world and its people as a whole, ranging broadly from the concept of ageing to the state of the environment.
Roberts writes of her process and her work in her blog One Painting at a Time, " Moving paint around has always opened the door for me, even if it's sometimes a struggle to turn the knob. The voice I need to hear is very quiet. Often it's not even a voice, but merely an impression, usually fleeting. It means that I have to try and quiet the normal din of voices in my head, but if I am listening for that wise, smart voice, it's like a hound casting for a scent, then finding and following it. When I find that scent, or follow where my voice leads me, it's very intense and one of the best things about my life. It's clear and purposeful, and gives me great joy, especially when I end up with an image I'm pleased with." This struggle to "turn the knob" is incredibly fruitful when one looks at her work. Many stories are told, some made up, some from her own life, some from mythology. The painstaking selection of each part of a body, animal, plant or vehicle results in a visually rich body of work filled with foxes, crows, coyotes, emotions and concerns such as health, anxiety, world view, relationships, connections to the body, survival and the journey the artist has taken in life.
Within Roberts' world of people with bodies made of boulders and animals made of asphalt, where giant ducks walk over Los Angeles, and women dance to Ranchera music with mysterious men, there are many stories to be told. The artist tells us those stories in her work as well as in her writing. However, Roberts wants the viewer to create their own stories from the work. This is an easy thing to do as each piece is so rich with imagery, texture and atmosphere - the viewer cannot help but get lost in both Roberts' world and in one's own imagination. It is an everlasting gift the artist has given not only to herself but to anyone who gazes upon her work.