The University of Texas at Austin
  • Student finds calling in studio art after accident

    By Leslie Lyon
    Leslie Lyon
    Published: May 15, 2008

    Despite having to learn and practice new skills to adapt to his situation, Holloway quickly grew restless in Katy and told his parents he was returning to the university as soon as possible. They were not so sure.

    After three months in the hospital and six months in rehab, Holloway came back to the university in fall 2004 and decided to pursue art as his major. He started off in Visual Arts Studies with the intent to teach, but still wasn’t completely happy there. So he made the move to studio art.

    “When I told my professor [Sarah Canright] about what I had done, her response was ‘Oh, good! You’re finally where you’re supposed to be.’ And when I took Troy Brauntuch’s class I told him ‘this is all new to me, but I’m willing to try if you are’ and his response was, ‘Well…yes, of course.’”

    The matter-of-fact responses from his new professors were a much-needed antidote to the dramatic, sweeping changes from the year past.

    Holloway’s hands are unable to move, but they can still command paintbrushes and pencils with astonishing precision and skill, and create amazing works of art on canvas and paper.

    His accident left him unable to use his hands, but he still has some use of his wrists and shoulders. Paintbrushes and pencils lie in neat rows on a table next to his canvases. He doesn’t ‘pinch’ them to pick them up so much as he threads or presses them through the spaces between his fingers. His details, his lines, are so fine, they look like they were created with a toothpick. A very small pencil drawing of his in the studio has a bear on a bike, and no detail has been spared. Every perfectly formed, individual tiny claw can be counted.

    Holloway’s large-scale oil painting portraiture could be called realism, they so closely resemble photos he takes of his friends, food or objects and situations he finds “gross…but still beautiful.”

    Indeed, Holloway’s studio space is surrounded by huge canvases with gaping mouths eating ice cream, bubble gum and cookies. There’s even a still-life with a sopping, greasy cheeseburger. Yet, through Holloway’s eyes, sensibilities and hands, these objects and subjects are beautiful.

    Holloway’s determination, diligent practice (he spends about 30 hours a week in the advanced painting studio) and success encouraged his parents to support his choice to pursue a career in art. Because he works on such a large scale, he had to find a way to access his entire canvas. Using a peg board to mount his works required asking people to raise and lower his works for him, so his father made a pulley system using large window blinds that hold his canvases, allowing Holloway to raise and lower the canvases on his own so he can work at his own prolific pace.

    Holloway’s work was recently exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute and Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and is now part of a touring exhibition titled “Driven.” For Holloway, there could be no more suitable title.

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