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Holly Roberts


My reaction to Melanie's poem was that both of our work, what we are saying, is about life's ambiguity, about the darkness that is also light.  The Fox is going after the bird's eggs, but he is just being a fox, looking to eat.  Who do we feel bad for, the circling parent birds, the eggs being destroyed, or the fox who is just trying to survive.  The Rabbit is waking up, startled, but we don't know if the snakes are after the rabbit, or if he/she is just waking out of a dark dream.  Can the rabbit get away?  Do the snakes have just as much right to the rabbit as the fox does to the eggs, or is it not even a problem, just a dream?

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Fox-with-Fallen-Eggs.20x24_2013_1.jpg

Fox-with-Fallen-Eggs

Startled-Rabbit.24x30_2014 (2).jpg

Startled-Rabbit

 

Holly Roberts’ first national exposure came in 1989 with the publication of the monograph, Holly Roberts, from the Untitled Series published by the Friends of Photography.  Although her work has always been based on the photograph, it was the inclusion of paint that made it so distinct.  As David Featherstone says in his introduction, “Roberts is a painter, yet it is the photograph underlying the paint, even when it can scarcely be seen, that gives the work its intriguing, mysterious power.  Drawing from the iconography of primitive art, particularly that of the Native American, Mexican and Hispanic cultures of the Southwest, where she lives, she creates paintings that address a broad range of human emotions. While it is Roberts’ evolving interaction with the photograph that takes her to her finished work, it is the existence of the underlying photographic image—even when it is obscured by paint—that gives the work its powerful qualities and sets up the emotional challenge for the viewer”.

Her work has continued to evolve, but she has reversed her original process of heavily overpainting the black and white silver print.  She now works on top of a painted surface, developing a narrative scene with collaged photographic elements.  Where earlier pieces reflected psychological or emotional undercurrents, newer works make use of familiar or iconic stories to address tougher questions about man’s effect on the land and the animals that inhabit it. 

In 1990, Nazraeli Press published Holly Roberts:  Works 1989-1999, and in 2009  Holly Roberts:  Works 2000-2009.  A dedicated teacher as well as a prolific artist, she has had a profound effect on a community of artists around the country. She continues to live in the Southwest.

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