“The abstracts are more like a dance,” says Laurel Holloman of her large scale paintings. “For me, abstract art works best when there is some type of movement.” Her canvases average at 5×6 feet, but she’s gone as large as 14×11 because “larger canvases make more room for that movement.” On the canvas, Holloman communicates emotion through depth and light. It is this deeply emotional dance that has taken the Los Angeles-based painter’s work to group and solo exhibitions around the globe. Her six series of paintings have been large scale abstract and elemental meditations on personal hardships, the music of Damien Rice, science, and questions about how and why we are here. Holloman paints worlds that she wants to escape to, and emotions that most want to escape from. She also finds elemental forms, “abstracted skies, trees, or water” in the emotional landscapes. Cell division and science, and influences of the creation theory panspermia, can be found in the more directly symbolic paintings.
A graduate of North Carolina University – Chapel Hill’s Theater Program, Holloman quickly entered the world of film in the mid-nineties. She was later cast in acclaimed prime-time series’ Angel, Castle, and The L Word. During hiatus’ she continued to paint, but this time she says, “I could sense a new chapter coming.”
After The L Word ended its run in 2009, Holloman was going through a divorce. She spent two years painting from the emotions that the experience aroused, then showed her TriBeca series in New York in 2011. Before long, she was showing at galleries throughout Europe, including the Venice Biennale, and a few in the states. Holloman made a name for herself overseas as a fine artist. All of this was born out of the raw emotion in her personal life, and the desire to step away from the world of film and embrace visual art. She followed her creative instincts as she became the sole supporter of her family. “It probably seemed like a crazy decision to most,” says Holloman of the timing of her transition into fine art. “I thought I would end up teaching, but I got sponsorship to paint for the first few years and it gave me the confidence to keep going.” Otherwise, Holloman would have returned to television creatively unsatisfied.
Velocity of Dreaming
“Although the pieces are abstract, they are all symbols of some of the emotions I was feeling,” says Holloman. ““Swelling Rage”, “The Part of Me Apart from You”, “Let me Fall” – the paintings were either symbols of what I was feeling or what I was looking for. With [the series] “All the World Inside,” (2013) the pieces became more reflective of worlds I wanted to escape to.” Holloman sees this theme particularly in “Velocity of Dreaming” and the “The Necessity of Affection.” “Velocity of Dreaming” evokes the movement of clouds. This is often a symbol for the dream world, but Holloman’s blue, grey, and white expression is not a soft bed of child-like reverie. Instead, the movement is urgent, exposing patches of deeper blue in the breaks of white shapes. The piece seems to be powered by the edge of some great storm.
“The Necessity of Affection” meditates on the loss of intimacy in a world where we interact digitally. The canvas is the color of a staining wine cut with a flow of cell-like symbols in deep blue, shocking violet, and small sweeps of bright colors. It marries Holloman’s interest in scientific symbols with the emotive effect of color – the romance of a deep red hue with cells flowing against it. The image is an expression of the necessity of emotion. It’s almost blood-like with a dance of happiness in the bright, circular shapes.
The Necessity of Affection
Regarding her use of color, Holloman states, “I think you need the depth to give the piece a sense of being another world, and the light highlights the emotion. I think light is everything when it comes to paint.” Utilizing this effect, understanding how much matter to weigh and where, is the delicate balance of color and emotion that Holloman displays throughout her works.
Holloman also painted briefly in her twenties. “I would say the style was abstract and I dabbled in loose figurative work also,”she says.“It is hard to reflect on the early stuff because I am almost never satisfied when I think of paintings from my past.”While her recent works are also abstract, Holloman sees them as being, “more specific. More connected.” It is hard to believe when she says that then, and now, expressing herself on the canvas is a battle between where she feels her skill set resides versus her vision.
Holloman’s series “The Innocents” steps away from her pleasurably heady abstract works and into highly realistic portraits. These are smaller than the abstracts, 36×36 inches, but convey the depth of the large worlds that she has created. The series shows women in various stages of life, from early childhood to the elderly, capturing where they are in time. In Holloman’s artist statement about the series, an emphasis is placed on women in their late 30s and early 40s. When asked about this particular stage, Holloman says that she wanted to explore the realization that girlishness has been replaced by maturity and a stronger sense of self. Women, she says “become more confident, take less shit, but of course they have more baggage.” She wanted to show the scars that are in their faces. They are images of women who are wrestling inwardly, or are in the midst of a dawning. Tension, questions, and acceptance radiate from their bodies. “The Warrior” is a portrait of a close friend raw from a break up only the week before. The woman in her late forties, baring a tattoo on her back, holds some silent power in her presence. Her past and her present, the marker of youth versus the symbols on a mature face, meet in the image.
Holloman’s work has been featured in the publications Art Forum and Art in America, and on the labels of L’Interprétation wine bottles. As far as what’s next, she’s working again on large scale abstracts to debut in the summer of 2016. What emotions, escapes, and theories will Holloman bring to us next?