An artist with a growing hoofprint...and a torch
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” The truth of Pablo Picasso’s words ring true as most of us look back and recall the treasured childhood artwork we were once so proud of, and find that artistic side of us has slowly faded. But there are those rare few who have overcome this “problem” as Picasso put it, and remained artists.
Local artist Hollie Berry is one. Drawing and painting since she was old enough to hold a pencil, Berry says art “has always been my first passion and interest.” While relatively new to Chattanooga, this talented young artist has already made her mark in the city.
“Book Flock”, one of her first marks on the city, was a collaboration with her engineering husband created in response to the River City Company’s call to artists to invent interactive art installations to go into empty store fronts downtown. While these installations were meant to be temporary, Berry said “after the one-year contract was up, they liked (Book Flock) so much that they paid us to move it and reinstall it at the downtown library.”
Curious, I asked her if it was a painting. A mischievous grin spread across her face as she shook her head “no.” Her description of this work of art doesn’t do it justice though, (and my retelling certainly wouldn’t) so you will simply have to make a trip down to the library to see it for yourself. We all know pigs can’t fly, but what about books?
Other notable local art projects Berry has been involved in include the McCallie Walls Mural Project in which she painted her first mural—“Four Horsewomen” located at 1411 McCallie Ave. She was also chosen as team leader for the ML King District Mural Project—one of the largest murals in the country.
Most recently she was nominated and selected as the featured artist for the 75th Annual Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville. As featured artist, her commissioned piece was the race’s official art used on invitations, programs, T-shirts, posters and more. For someone whose passion has always been equestrian art, a commission like this was the perfect launch towards her goal of becoming the go-to equestrian artist in the southeast.
“My focus is making legitimately good pieces that happen to be of horses,” she said. “I’m passionate about horses and I find it’s the only thing I can paint consistently and never get bored of.” This passion for equestrian art used to frustrate her art teachers who would direct her to draw a landscape or something more traditional. “I would always cheat and draw a little horse in that landscape,” Berry said with a laugh.
Now a full-time artist putting in 40+ hours per week at her studio at Chattanooga Workspace, she says, “I am for the first time finally embracing what I’m really passionate about which is not just art, but equestrian art.”
As I watched her paint, we discussed her process and inspiration. She begins with a photograph. “I really like taking my own pictures because while I’m there, I’m thinking about the colors and the feel. You lose a lot in photographs,” she says. “A lot of color subtlety especially.”
She might come back with hundreds of photos which she then whittles down to a dozen or so that she believes might make good paintings. She uses her computer to construct the image she wants to paint. “I can make the technology help me,” Berry said, using features like contrasts, filters, and copy and pasting multiple photos into one to get a working imagine of what she wants to paint.
While the scope of her art is already expansive, she is never satisfied with the status quo and continues to challenge herself in new ways. “I never stop learning,” she noted. “Right now I’m doing a mentorship with Mia Bergeron. Having someone you admire that can coach you and give you advice is one of the fastest ways you can improve...deliberate practice.”
Mia Bergeron said she has been proud to guide Hollie. “I’ve watched her grow enormously in the past year, and her tireless exploratory nature not only makes her a brilliant painter now, but also someone to keep an eye on in the future.”
Bergeron is not the only one with this opinion, as Berry was recently selected by AVA be one of only 13 emerging artists represented in their upcoming FRESH 2016 exhibition which showcases emerging artists from the Southeast. This exhibition runs through September 30 with an opening reception on September 10 during the Gallery Hop. Berry also shows her completed pieces at her studio at Chattanooga Workspace and hopes to be represented by a regional gallery soon.