Holly Henderson is an artist from Michigan who strives to make her viewers feel a bittersweet nostalgic pang.
Holly received her BFA from Central Michigan University in 2019. She has spent time living in both Urban New York City and Remote New Mexico, where their dissimilar landscapes highlighted the surprising similarity in humanness. She is motivated by the complexities of the human condition in her art. She focuses on primarily coming to age feelings mixed with love, heartbreak, friendship, and family. She primarily uses a collage of found objects and using these forgotten images to create stories yet again. Her work commonly features type, whether it be from one of the old magazines she uses to collage, or written on her typewriter.
Holly’s art is funny, happy, exciting, and sad, all at the same time. Her ultimate goal within her art is to make her viewers think, feel, and remember.
Hello Holly! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started as an artist?
Holly: Hi! I was born and raised outside of Detroit. I got my BFA in 2019 and have spent time living in both New York and New Mexico. I was always drawn to art as a child, but I never felt qualified to practice or pursue it. I began making art around the end of high school, and I immediately felt connected to the way of life. Although I was raised with a strong academic focus, I decided to study graphic design, which was where my real introduction to art and creative problem solving began.
Your work is rooted in nostalgia and some pieces seem tied to childhood memories. Can you further, explain the influence of nostalgia on your work?
Holly: You are who you are today because of what has happened in your life every day prior, right? You’ve made it through every day, good and bad, you’ve changed and grown, you’ve experienced things, you’ve fallen in love and gotten your heartbroken. That’s all something to celebrate. That’s why I make the art that I do, to celebrate the little moments that make up who we all are today.
Who are some artists you find influential?
Holly: I’m majorly influenced by artists of the postmodernist era. I am hugely inspired by John Baldessari, for his haphazard photographs and commitment to not making boring art. Ed Ruscha, for his witty additions of text to make impactful images, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres, for how he constantly poured his soul into his works, while maintaining simplicity.
Can you describe your creative process? How do you incorporate your passion for complexities of the human condition?
Holly: I’d say that I’m a naturally nostalgic person, someone who loves looking through old photos and reminiscing on the past. That part of my creative process reveals itself naturally. When I sit down to create, I don’t do any planning. I like to let images and ideas come together how they may, and embracing the failures as well as the successes.
What’s the most challenging part of your artistic process? And how do you overcome it?
Holly: I think all artists suffer artist block at one point or another, it’s silly to imply that they don’t. Like anyone, I will go through periods where I am largely uninspired and cannot seem to shake the feeling. These times usually come at crucial moments, when my art is transforming and changing. To overcome this, I schedule time in my studio space to experiment, clean, look through old art, and research. I find that spending time surrounding myself in artistic things that aren’t focused towards making something great, helps tremendously.
What does a typical day look like for you? Do you have a specific routine or process? How much planning do you do before you jump into creating an artwork?
Holly: A typical day consists of going to work, getting home around 6 pm, and making art until I go to bed. On the weekends it’s a similar process, occasionally punctuated by spending time with friends. When it comes to making art, I go down to my studio and just pick up where I left off the day before. I very rarely do planning for my artwork, but I do seem to always have ideas swirling in my head that I’m eager to get onto paper.
What are some of the stories behind your work?
Holly: A lot of the stories behind my work are inspired by my own life, and “zoomed out” to bring ambiguity, and in hopes that however viewing the work can apply the feeling to areas of their own life. It’s easy to pick up that I’m a hopeless romantic since that clearly shines through within my art. I don’t want to spoil any of the specific stories that play into my art, so I’ll let you use your imagination.
What are you currently working on?
Holly: I usually have a million different things in the works, but right now it’s actually a bit of a lull. I just did a huge series of collaged envelopes that were really fun. I added text with my grandmother’s old typewriter, collaged on images, and went along with the idea of a message so important that you can’t even stick it inside the envelope. Sort of like wearing your heart on your sleeve, but in a slightly different context. Since then, I’ve been experimenting a lot more with paint, and working on canvas rather than paper or envelopes. I’m constantly trying to expand my style and explore a little more every day.
Do you see your art as serving a purpose beyond art?
Holly: Absolutely. I’d say my two greatest passions in life are art and people, and I hope for my art to connect people. I want my art to serve as a stepping stone into conversations with others, thoughts with yourself, and ideas you might not have had, or feelings you may have ignored.
Where do you see your art practice going in the future?
Holly: Eventually, I’d love to be a professor. I love being a busy person and believe in dreaming and doing everything to the greatest potential. I’d love to have solo shows following a story, to publish a book, attend a residency program, lead workshops, the list goes on… Mainly, however, I see myself continuing to focus and hone in on answering that main question: What does it mean to be human?
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