Loie Hollowell on Abstraction, Making the Grotesque Beautiful, and Her Latest Work

Winford Hunter


Casey Lesser

Loie Hollowell in her Ridgewood, Queens, studio. Videotill by RAVA for Artsy.

Loie Hollowell has prolonged pursued her individual singular twist on abstraction. “From the starting, when I commenced incorporating sex into the operate, I required it to be obvious and kind of assertive,” she said during an early March job interview at her studio in Ridgewood, Queens. “At the exact time, through the abstraction, it was concealed beneath the guise of official conclusions, like the color and the composition.”

That strategy has yielded more than a ten years of beloved paintings that deftly stability summary kinds and visceral portrayals of the body and bodily encounters, like sex, abortion, being pregnant, and childbirth. Carnal forms like almond-shaped mandorlas, sensual semicircles, luminous orbs, and smooth shafts dance throughout Hollowell’s canvases, painted in a host of satisfying, pulsing hues, and amplified by sculptural casts that soar out from the area.

In the previous several many years considering that getting a mother, Hollowell’s get the job done has showcased casts of pregnant bellies and breasts protruding from the canvas. “With my modern work, it’s been a lot additional assertive,” she mentioned.

With the new work she’s generating now, even though, Hollowell is finding a fruitful center floor. “I’m genuinely wanting it to be a tiny much more didactic, type of sharing my experience with offering beginning and breastfeeding, but I sense like the most new perform is seeking to toe the line in between that actually descriptive function of the human body casts with a extra type of abstract layer to it so that it results in being a tiny much less direct,” she spelled out. What continues to be constant is the ever-intriguing emotion of the work—the genuine emotion that Hollowell can elicit with just the suitable combination of color and form.

Consider, for case in point, Force in yellow-blue and mars violet (2022), a placing symmetrical portray designed up of two pale blue-and-yellow half-moons that meet at the center of the canvas, amid a velvety pink track record. Combining abstraction with crystal clear allusions to the overall body, the operate exemplifies Hollowell’s ability to channel particular, physical encounters into mesmerizing paintings.

Hollowell is offering this painting in a single-ton Effect auction on Artsy, in partnership with Speed Gallery. Proceeds will go to One particular Acre Fund, a nonprofit organization that supports smallholder farmers in East Africa. Bidding is open from Tuesday, March 21st, by means of Friday, March 24th.

“I genuinely like executing this sort of auction do the job for organizations that impact the most people today,” Hollowell reported. “[One Acre Fund] supplies machines, seeds, and other forms of farming necessities to individuals in sub-Saharan Africa, and that is just an crucial element of people’s life there.”

The bring about also resonates personally with Hollowell, who grew up in a farming group in Northern California, near fields that would cycle by means of corn, alfalfa, tomatoes, and sunflowers. “It’s all laser-leveled flat fields, so from the home I grew up in, I can see for miles and miles in just about every route large open skies,” she described. “I believe that that, including the colour of the sky, staying so vivid, has surely affected the coloration of my get the job done.”

A bold cobalt blue recurs throughout Hollowell’s perform, even though her palettes have improved often over the several years. She recalled a 2018 display at Tempo in London that was virtually totally concentrated on main colours, in potent contrast to her recent do the job. “I’ve actually been pulling from the hues of my physique, like fleshy pinks and salmons and muted purples, like mauve,” she explained of her present-day observe. “Then again, even far more not too long ago, I’m seeking to convey dazzling shades back into the human body spaces.”

Hollowell in her Ridgewood, Queens, studio. Video clip however by RAVA for Artsy.

Coloration interactions are unique to personal paintings, as effectively as Hollowell’s emotional condition at the time. “The different experiences we have in our bodies turn into distinctive colors,” she defined. “For illustration, your psychological headspace can be significant and blue and watery—or it can be actually gentle and airy, like a pink.

“From the beginning, it’s distinct to me what the central character’s colour has to be, and then the relaxation of the portray will type of feed off of that feeling of that colour,” Hollowell ongoing. “With [Pressure in yellow-blue and mars violet], I definitely knew the colors of the semi-circles before just about anything else—I realized I wished them to be a yellowish dusky skyscape.”

Individuals semi-circles, which are rounded, sculptural varieties, are couched involving triangular varieties that are also three-dimensional, awash in a lush orangey-crimson with hints of gold. The origins of the perform can be deciphered via the kind earlier mentioned the orbs, which plainly resembles a vulva, as well as the titular nod to “pressure.”

Depth from Hollowell’s studio. Movie however by RAVA for Artsy.

The painting is aspect of a new series that speaks to Hollowell’s working experience with what she thinks is interstitial cystitis, a continual issue that destinations debilitating strain on the bladder. “It can occur to any individual. It doesn’t have to be right after you give birth, but I believe that supplying delivery twice in two years truly contributed to a lot of the wellbeing concerns that I have experienced postpartum,” Hollowell stated. “And this working experience, in specific, is the most distressing, imprisoning working experience I have at any time experienced in my body.”

Hollowell had already begun working on this new sequence of shaped canvases when she understood they could be manifestations of this serious situation. “When I looked at them, it felt like the strain,” she recalled. “This portray is quite obviously about that experience, this interstitial cystitis. And I’m fascinated in performing a lot more like it, but it’s tricky to integrate this content…and have it nevertheless be wonderful, and not variety of grotesque.”

Oil pastel drawings in Hollowell’s studio. Video continue to by RAVA for Artsy.

The perform is significantly from grotesque. Yet another get the job done from the collection (there are a few so far, out of 20 in whole), Tension in Blue and Purple (2022), was a short while ago highlighted in “Love Letter,” a team exhibit that Hollowell co-curated in January with fellow artist Harminder Judge at Speed in New York. The exhibition highlighted the two up to date artists’ will work, as well as pieces by two forebears they admire: Agnes Pelton and Ghulam Rasool Santosh.

However the aesthetic and spiritual connections in between the 4 artists are abundantly obvious, “Love Letter” also spoke to the present temper, in which abstraction feels particularly hopeful. In an essay for the show, the author Charlotte Jansen captured this sentiment: “The confines of our mortal existence have been translated into symbols, represented in color and light-weight for hundreds of years, all over the world—but dealing with the infinite inexplicable…is a particular kind of pursuit in abstraction.”

In the wake of quite a few many years of enthusiasm encompassing figurative painting and unlimited news cycles of doom and gloom, the probable for abstraction to offer you up options to truth, and to inspire new ways of wondering, is refreshing. And although Hollowell’s function is perhaps significantly less abstract than just before, these identical thoughts continue to ring true.

Hollowell in her studio. Online video nonetheless by RAVA for Artsy.

“Love Letter” also featured Hollowell’s Completely Dilated (2022), a canvas that includes smoky grey and mauve halos encompassing a bright blue pregnant stomach forged. “I assume the human body cast operate of the expecting breasts and bellies—all forged from 5 unique friends of mine in their 3rd trimester—just had to take place since supplying delivery was such an enlightening and transformative knowledge,” Hollowell reported. “I could not not discuss about it genuinely instantly. And I also just felt like it hasn’t been existing in artwork.

“I don’t see the grotesqueness and the splendor and the soreness staying talked about in up to date painting,” she ongoing, “and so it just felt like there was room for it.” She pointed to Judy Chicago and Clarity Haynes as among the the few who have carried out this get the job done.

Hollowell famous that generating figurative sculpture has been overwhelming, nevertheless she options to keep on to generate with these cast kinds. She’s especially inspired by the bellies, which maintain the opportunity to turn out to be abstracted, oblong sorts.

Hollowell in her studio. Online video nevertheless by RAVA for Artsy.

With the aid of Tempo as well as Jessica Silverman (which also exhibits the artist), Hollowell is at a issue in her profession wherever she is capable to pursue this more experimental operate along with the paintings she’s develop into recognized for. Before this March, Hollowell’s Split Orbs in purple, ochre, and brown (2021) bought for £635,000 ($758,819) at Phillips, surpassing its high estimate and her auction history was established in 2021, when Connected Lingams (yellow, environmentally friendly, blue, purple, pink) (2018) bought for HK$16.51 million (US$2.126 million) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong.

The human body forged functions have by now been generating the rounds at artwork fairs, even though, as well as exhibitions, which includes a existing solo show at the Manetti Shrem Museum in Davis, California.

“I’ve transitioned the do the job a minimal little bit with the system casts,” Hollowell stated. “It’s been actually fascinating to see a unique established of feedback from people—women and birthing folks have reached out a whole lot and commented on how it’s impacted them and what they come to feel about it in seriously beneficial approaches.

“It’s appealing to recognize that I’m sort of definitely considering about a specific viewers,” she continued. “I consider it’s turned some people today off, but it’s nice to attain a position in my vocation wherever I truly feel like I can have these two unique bodies of get the job done.”

Check out “Artsy Effect Auction: Loie Hollowell, in Assistance of One Acre Fund” and sign up to bid.



Casey Lesser

Casey Lesser is Artsy’s Director of Articles.

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