Hadley Holliday

Studio location: The bucolic Los Angeles neighborhood of Monterey Hills.
You know her paintings from: Several well received exhibitions at Taylor de Cordoba and Solway Jones here in Los Angeles. Or perhaps from exhibitions at Carl Solway Gallery in Cincinnati, Irvine Fine Arts Center and the Weatherspoon Art Museum. She also has a blog where she visits artist’s studios around Los Angeles, which inspired me to start this site. You can see her blog Studio Day here.
Fun Fact: Although distantly related to Doc Holliday, she has never shot anyone.

The following is an excerpted conversation from 10/19/15

H.H.: Currently, I’m drawing all the flowers in the entire collection at LACMA I’m trying to cover every object with flowers on it. Some don’t have any, some are totally encrusted. Some flowers are in the frames. I’ve been drawing them for about 6 months. I’ve been working there for 12 years.

H.H: I started in the South East Asian galleries, India and Pakistan, all these Hindu Gods. There was so much, at first, I thought, why did I start this? I calculated that it would take me three years to get through it all but now that I’m in the European galleries it’s going faster. At some point I’ll probably stumble down some dusty corridor I’ve never been to.

H.H.:Some of them, I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a flower, some just have radial symmetry. The idea was to just do blind contour drawings, they aren’t totally blind contour, but mostly. That’s the way I draw, that’s the way I plan painting. I’ve done all the Southeast Asian rooms, and half of the older European collection, all the medieval parts. I just drew the flowers in a room of French painting Fragonard and Boucher, there were a lot of cupids, Once I get into the Dutch still lives, it’s going to be these fun, impossible flower arraignments thirty different flowers that bloom at all different times of the year and come from all different places. I’m excited to get to the Japanese Pavilion too.

H.H.: I do a lot of planning when it comes to materials. I’ve been experimenting with cyanotype which is basically like a photogram, it’s one of the oldest forms of photography. It has the consistency of water. You mix it in the dark and when you brush it on it has this acid yellow color but it ends up a deep blue.
H.H: Could I use it like paint? Combine it like paint, or layer it with paint? I wondered if I could make a brushstroke with an image inside of it.

S.L.: How do you do these fades?
H.H.: With sand. The big spots of light were done with sand. That has five or six layers, I paint in sections let it dry overnight, then put whatever I want on it, put it in the sun and then wash it. With small things you are supposed to wash it trays but these are too big so I have a clothesline and I hose them down. The sand is from Lake Michigan. It’s really silky. When you walk in the sand there, it squeaks. They mine the sand to make glass.

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(Michigan sand, not a cat box)
H.H.:What I like about working on canvas is the woven surface, so I use burlap to bring that back to the paper. I’ve done tests on canvas and I haven’t gotten the results I want yet.
S.L.: Do the chemicals react differently?
H.H: Yeah, I can’t get the gradations that make it look like it has a photographic element and then what’s the point, you might as well as paint with blue paint

detailbrushmarks                                                                                 burlapdetail
H.H.: For years I’ve been working with this idea of transparent colors where it has the effect of projected light, but these marks are actually made by light.
S.L.: Your paintings always have had a shimmery quality as if you’re looking through a kaleidoscope underwater with sunlight filtered through it. It does seem like the next step on this journey.

H.H. As a process it’s a surprise. The more I do i do it, the less of a surprise it might be, but for now it’s magical.

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H.H: I’ve been making work in a darkroom lately. It’s so fun working in there. In high school, photography was my gateway to art.
S.L.: Yeah, cool kids hung out in the darkroom cause you know, it was dark in there.
H.H.: It’s been so long though. I hadn’t stepped into a darkroom since the early 90’s. The first day I went there, I did test strips and wrote down everything I did. The next time I went in there, I tried to follow my instructions and it was totally different. It’s a student darkroom and I can’t control the chemistry.

S.L.: But do you want to?
H.H: Well, I learned, don’t rely on test strips.

S.L.: But they’re kind of neat as little pieces. Like shards of glass.
H.H.: Those were cut ups from other drawings, but they do look like shattered glass next to the flowers.

S.L.: Before grad school did you work abstractly?
H.H.: Going to CalArts made me commit to abstraction. I was doing landscape art with references (camouflage, flags) and Michael Asher looked at it and said, “that’s great, but you don’t need it”. But now I’m drawing flowers, so who knows. I’ve been working with zero imagery for so long. It’s weird to all of the sudden to have imagery. It has meaning but can be meaningless too. It feels good to me.

detaillighter                                                                               H_detail
S.L.: I went and saw the Moholy-Nagy (who also did a lot of photograms)  show at the Santa Barbara Museum and it got me thinking about the difference between his work which was more about abstraction as a universal language as opposed to someone like Lee Mullican who approached it from a spiritual, intuitive place. You seem to have both in your work.
H.H: With the last series there was this idea of working with geometric structure with a fluid process and putting those together and seeing what happened. The last series was geometric structure with fluidity, just pairing those opposites. With the flowers, there’s both things there too.

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S.L.: What you’re doing, it’s a feat of man.                                                                    H.H.: But it’s also fun and meditative.


You can see more of Hadley’s work here.