For Associate Professor and Chair of Art Mark Holmes, inspiration for the work for his show “Lift: Living with Gravity” stems from art he made in the past, all the way back to when he would make model airplanes as a kid.
He was mainly excited to have an exhibit because he wants to expose his art to students and explain the flaws that come with being an artist.
“The show is really about the ways we choose to respond to various kinds of weight that each of us deals with,” Holmes said, “Even as somebody who’s had a great life, I feel very fortunate, there’s still things that we encounter that weigh us down, so gravity in my case is both a literal embodiment of that weight, but it’s also a metaphor for the other kinds of weight.”
The gallery consisted of different types of pieces. There were sculptures made of clay that resembled human figures, balancing in unique positions, along with clay pieces that hung from the wall. Finally, there were two types of pieces of artwork that resembled drawings and paintings. The full length of one of the gallery walls was covered in drawings, representing the space and relationships between the sculptures. These reminded Holmes of parking lots or airplane view of pieces of land.
“Each of them has their own character and their own weirdness, you know. An awkwardness to many of them. But I’m also interested in terms of their relationships,” Holmes said.
Holmes explained that many of the pieces of work in the gallery were made as a political act. He found himself creating more after the 2016 election. When making work, he avoids negative energy and focuses more on how his relationship with politics, relationships and gravity forces him to continue to stand up.
“There is a political meaning to making things and putting things in the world which makes us more alive, which makes us aware of things, which allows us to live on a different plane,” Holmes said.
Even with the many failures that come with being an artist, such as reworking ideas and clay sculptures falling to the floor, Holmes feels as though he is discovering himself. He mentioned the risk in playing with gravity and in constructing some of his bigger sculptures.
“For a moment it’s disheartening, but then you have to take a hard look at it and think, ‘Is there an opportunity here?’ ‘Is there something I can discover by the way it’s laying on the floor or the way it broke?’” Holmes said.
Although Holmes was recently on sabbatical, he didn’t create as much work as he did during a residency at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He spent five weeks in Virginia during the summer time where he was surrounded by artists with the same passion as him. Besides that, it is a struggle for him to find time to create his art between teaching classes and running a department.
“A lot of the way I work comes about so that I can work in small amounts of time. If I can get into the studio for an hour between a meeting and class, I can make a little progress,” Holmes said.
Even so, Holmes feels that he has to continue to make art whenever he can to stay focused. He values the time in the studio to keep him open-minded.
“It’s a struggle; you’ve got to want it really badly. And I’m compulsive as a maker,” Holmes said. “If I’m not working on my own work in more than a moment or so, I feel like I’m falling apart.”