Enter the crowded studio of Lonnie Holley, whose latest works include ceramics and musical compositions
Since the start of 2022, Lonnie Holley has been preparing three solo exhibitions: two currently on view at Dallas Contemporary and Edel Assanti in London, and one opening next month at Blum and Poe in Los Angeles.
Holley also spent several weeks in February in rural England composing a new song cycle, “The Edge of What”, for Artangel. Timed for the opening of Edel Assanti, Holley hosted a one-night performance of the music at London’s Stone Nest last month. (Artangel also made a 25-minute film of the artist at work in Orford Ness Nature Reserve, a former military testing site on the Suffolk coast.)
It’s been a busy spring in every way, but that suits the 72-year-old artist and musician just fine. Born in Birmingham, Alabama as the seventh of 27 children, Holley is self-taught and began building sculptures in his front yard. He rose to prominence after participating in a 1996 show organized by the Souls Grown Deep Foundation of Atlanta, which is dedicated to promoting African-American artists from the southern United States.
Success in the music business came later; Since beginning her professional recording career in 2006, Holley has performed and recorded with Bon Iver, Deerhunter, the Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective and Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor. To this day, he continues to expand his practice by making his first ceramic works for the Dallas Contemporary exhibition.
In a rare moment of freedom, Holley was kind enough to speak to Artnet News about her Atlanta studio and her creative process.
Can you send us a photo of the most essential item in your studio and tell us why you can’t live without it?
I don’t sit down much when I’m in the studio. But I have a rocking camp chair that I have to have with me when I work. Because when I’m sitting, I like to sit and think and rock back and forth.
What is the studio task on your calendar this week that you are most looking forward to?
I just moved a lot of canvases that I had painted out of my studio. So the space is open and I can’t wait to go back and put some more canvases and stretched quilts to paint. I like to come in when there’s room to spread things out and be inspired.
What atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?
I work wherever I am. Sometimes I listen to music and other times I work in the natural sounds around me. I like all kinds of music. Often I listen to old songs or maybe the gospel records of Bob Dylan, or Stevie Wonder. Sometimes I listen to my own music and let it take me back to the feeling I had when I made it. I have a studio, recently moved to a new one, but I mostly work globally.
Who are your favorite artists, curators or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?
I tend to post a lot of photos and art on social media, but I’m not good at following people. Most of the time, I follow artists I know or artists I’ve played with.
Is there a photo you can send of your current work in progress to the studio?
Here are images of me at work in a studio in Guadalajara, Mexico. I first started working with clay in preparation for my exhibition at Dallas Contemporary, which includes framed ceramic tiles as well as ceramic objects.
When you feel stuck preparing for a show, what do you do to “unstuck” yourself?
I’ve never really done art for a show, exactly. I’m always busy doing something. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten stuck. Between drawing, painting, assembling objects, carving stone, making music, and taking photos, there’s usually something to keep me busy if I get stuck in one of those areas.
What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you despise the most?
Honestly, if someone has taken the time and energy to do something, I admire them. Too often people do nothing, and I guess that’s what I despise. When someone says they haven’t had the time or an idea, I can’t understand it. There is always time and ideas.
What images or objects do you look at while you work? Share your view from behind the canvas or your desk, where you spend the most time.
I tend to be too focused on the things I’m doing to spend time watching other things. In my old studio, I had material all around me that I used to collect and use in my work, but once I start working, I’m pretty focused on the job at hand. The same goes for my music. If I’m in the studio making music, I don’t need to hear anything else that might distract me from my creativity.
“Lonnie Holley: Coming From the Earth” is presented at the Dallas Contemporary, 161 Glass Street, Dallas, Texas, from April 16 to August 21, 2022.
‘Lonnie Holley: The Growth of Communication’ is on view at Edel Assanti, 1B Little Titchfield Street, London, from 12 May to 2 July 2022.
“Lonnie Holley” will be presented at Blum and Poe, 2727 South La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA from July 9 to August 13, 2022.
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