Be Art Magazine: First of all, congratulations Laurel Holloman on your success as an artist! You started out as an actor and did quite well for yourself in that medium. When and why did you decide to shift your creative focus into painting rather than acting?
Laurel Holloman: I shifted to painting completely in 2011 and stopped acting so I could paint full time. I was thinking about going back to school for my Masters in Art, but I could not fathom doing it with two young kids. I was a single mom with no child support, it was either go back to acting and not be around my kids because of the long hours on set or try to launch a show. I have been painting in the down time between acting jobs and I had studied some art in undergrad… but my main focus was theatre so it was pretty scary at first. I applied for a public solo show in Paris at the Pantheon Town Hall. I won the three-weeks show out of 200 artists. It sold out and allowed me another year to keep painting. The Paris exhibition along with another Italian solo exhibition curated by Lea Mattarella, at the Ateneo Veneto called “Free Falling” lead to a Venice Biennale group show in 2013. When I look back at it now, I think I was purely in a survival mode. I really needed it to work out. I felt that acting was becoming creatively stagnant for me. I also needed to control my time because I had two young kids and I did not want to be on set 15 hours a day. Prior to the shift in 2011, I painted earlier in 2010 (while still acting) in NYC with my two kids by myself, when they were 2 and 5. It was a very lonely time but it was hugely cathartic and I felt such a huge creative freedom. I wanted to find a way to hold on to that freedom.
Be Art Magazine: It seems that people don’t often successfully pivot in the middle of their career, particularly when it comes to the arts, which can be unpredictable, were you surprised at all by how positively your art has been received?
Laurel Holloman: I was surprised and also suspicious. I wanted the work to be appreciated without anyone knowing I was from the TV and film industry. I pushed hard to have exhibitions in Europe where most people were not familiar with my TV past. Later on, it was certain curators that made me feel more confident because they endorsed me and put their own reputation on the line and that helped my confidence in many ways. I am very grateful for people like Lea Mattarella (former art critic of La Repubblica), Maria Elena Beneito (head of the Argentinian Biennale) and Claudio Libero Pisano (curator of Nell’Aqua Capisco), each were very supportive of my work early on.
Be Art Magazine: What’s your advice to other women who are thinking about a mid-career change but aren’t sure if they can do it successfully?
Laurel Holloman: I think you have to really jump and not look back. You also have to be driven and disciplined… which I am. I am very used to long hours on a TV set so it was easy to transfer that to long hours in a studio. Painting is a loner’s job… Long hours, always alone, but I needed that quiet and to be spiritually fulfilled as Hollywood can be a bit of a soul drain. I think, first you have to visualize it working and you have to research everything you can to learn as much as you can. Most importantly, be humble, and learn from other artists and curators. From my experience, art provided me a nice supportive community where other artists always gave me new ideas.
Be Art Magazine: Tell me about the title of your exhibition “Memory and Movement” and how you decided on that would be the theme.
Laurel Holloman: If you look back at many of my themes, memory has always been there. In my first Paris exhibition, I had a painting called Memory Loss. It is an abstract based on a blurred photo of my family, basically the edge of a photo. The painting was emotionally charged because it was painting through the grief of my divorce and what my family had lost. I wanted to keep blurring the image in a way to wipe it out from my mind. I found out that I am fascinated with how memory changes and it can never be finite, like how two people can have a separate memory of the same event? From the perspective of painting,
I was also layering the paints in a technical way, so the paintings have a memory of older images hidden underneath. I prefer abstracts that have hints of other images that are hidden and slowly revealed.
Be Art Magazine: Are there specific memories attached to each of the paintings — tell me a little bit about your creative process and how it comes to be.
Laurel Holloman: Some pieces are more playful and go back to my childhood memories and others go to memories of my own children when they were young or places we traveled together. Life Aquatic (see below) is based on a day swimming with sea turtles in Hawaii with my daughter Lola. It is loosely based on all the grass underwater where we were swimming. The turtles were hiding in the grass. While this painting is more literal, there are other pieces that are purely abstract and which represent the complexities of memory and how it can start to slip as we age. This is apparent in Illusive Thoughts and Life’s Golden Compass. Other pieces were about movement and palette, for example “ Flirting” reminded me of lipstick in golden containers floating, yet playful in its movement. The piece is about having the freedom to flirt unabashedly. I find that to be more of a memory now that I am older. Desert Sky is lush bright pink, a color field painting based on an image of a Palm Springs’ sunset with iridescent pigments powder floating through it. There is a lot of use of dry pigment in the exhibition and also metallic which I have used since the early shows in 2012 and 2013. I love reflective surfaces that become three dimensional when lit.
Be Art Magazine: It seems as though you’re in a meditative state when painting. What do you think about meditation? Do you practice?
Laurel Holloman: I practice yoga and meditation but I am not as disciplined as I should be. I prefer painting than being on a yoga mat. Regarding the more meditative abstract pieces I need music. For this show I listened to a lot of “The Avener” and lots of Ibiza House music. I would say this is not what I usually listen to, but I needed a repetitive beat when working through the winding abstract gold layers, and yes it was very meditative.
Be Art Magazine: Speaking of memory and movement — do you perceive memories as static or always moving?
Laurel Holloman: I think they are always moving if we are feeling good and more static when we are feeling low.
Be Art Magazine: How is it possible to freeze a memory in a canvas forever, if memories are always changing?
Laurel Holloman: I would say it is like freeze-framing a moment from a film. It stops like a photograph in the middle of a moment, but the emotional memory is changing and evolving. Putting it on canvas is capturing the specific moment or feeling.
Be Art Magazine: Is it hard for you to let a painting go? I’ve heard other artists say that it can be a difficult experience because you put so much heart and soul into these creations.
Laurel Holloman: I feel I paint to let all of them go. I am always looking forward quite quickly to the next show so I feel okay to let go of them.
Be Art Magazine: Who are the women who have inspired you both personally and professionally?
Laurel Holloman: Personally, my mom for her intelligence, work ethic, and her empathy and my daughters for how they see the world. Professionally, I would say Juliette Binoche, Louise Bourgeois, Marlene Dumas, Julie Mehretu, I really love Lorna Simpson’s work and I fell in love with Maria Lasnig’s work when I saw it at the 2013 Venice Biennale. She is a strong example that painting is something you can do forever as you grow older. I don’t feel this about acting.
Be Art Magazine: Your exhibition “Memory and Movement” will be held at the Galerie Joseph in Paris. Why chosen France as the place to exhibit?
Laurel Holloman: I have had two very successful solo shows here, one in 2012 and another in 2014. I have also wanted to come back because I feel everything started for me in Paris. Also it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Be Art Magazine: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received that you’d like to share with others?
Laurel Holloman: Live your authentic life without searching for the approval of others. Color out of the lines and think out of the box. There is great freedom in that.
Interview conducted for be-Art Magazine July 1st, 2019
*Laurel Holloman was born in May 23, 1971 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles.