The Art of Holly Denham: Seeing hope beyond the facade of a negative reality

I think raising children is the most rewarding thing you can do. Raising my children was likely the happiest time of my life, and what they have become makes me infinitely proud. What they become largely is the complete responsibility of the parent and any little mistake made along the way can translate into massive problems later down the line. So to see my kids arrive into their late twenties being nice productive people unbroken by the realities of existence is something I never get tired of. Both of my children do unusual things creatively which for me was always my hope for them. Most parents just want their children to be successful and moderately happy in life, but I always expected more with some of the unusual experiences I introduced them to as kids. Then like all parents must—although most don’t accomplish it—you have to have the guts to keep your grubby hands out of their lives and let them live it as much as possible—so that they can authenticate their own way through a complicated world, and you have to trust that what you taught them along the way would give them what they need. My oldest daughter is a successful photographer and is doing great things very early in life. And now her sister is applying her own brand to the world of art which can be seen below.

My first impression of my youngest daughter’s Holly Denham Art platform was pride because she had moved her abilities well beyond just sketching basic pictures, which a lot of people can do, but do it at the level of a top illustrator. It was great to see her arrive at that level, and to witness her work on the many products displayed at the website below. But then peeling back the first impression at the depth of the work and noticing her interest levels, it was obvious not just because she was my kid, that she had developed a truly artistic outlook toward the world. Upon seeing these drawings, I reflected the drawings I had seen of Pablo Picasso recently at the British Museum in London that the famous painter had made about every day life, and I had to tell Holly that I thought she was better at this stage of her work. The reason was that she had managed to reach deeply into her subjects and pull out an optimism that is very distinct for her and show it in her work. Even if at first glance the subjects are dreary and in the style of the pessimism typical of most millennials, there is always a glimmer of hope in what she does that makes her stuff different from similar works of art.

I remember how it was when I was her age, I used to hang around with all the crazy artists at 4 AM in the morning at the Perkins in Corryville at the University of Cincinnati campus, and then the Perkins in Montgomery where all the affluent rich kids who wanted to be nothing like their stiff parents came to express themselves with grunge art, music and literature over hamburgers and free refills of Coke all night. There were similar scenes played out all across the world, young people who thought they were the first to stumble out of childhood and into the injustice of the world rebelling with non-conformity—until the age of 30 came closer and the demands of children, house payments and a steady job forced them to do what they knew best, what they learned from watching their parents go through the same cycle. Thus, artists, even the really good ones, find themselves limited greatly by this cycle of observation—even Picasso’s sketches were very didactic in their worldview—featured so prominently at the greatest museums of the world. Most young artists while their window of free thinking is open to them, before the pressures of life close that window only get to the point where they ask questions and represent those questions in their art. It is therefore pretty rare to see an artist who can ask and answer some of those observational questions.

If an artist isn’t breaking through into some realization not obtained any other way, then it could be argued that the work is simply reflectional—and other than looking neat, is useless to the viewer. But capturing some hidden reality, obscured by the lenses of daily pressures is the difference between a good artist and an average one and to me it is quite clear that Holly is peaking at that goodness. Many of the pieces she has shown me recently are already there. I can only imagine what she will be like after another 2000 drawings, which she is well on her way to producing. She has always been a very interesting person and has had a need to express that uniqueness—so its very nice to see that wonder hatching early in the 21st Century for the world to enjoy.

For me however the pride is in elements that aren’t so obvious in the various sketches. Artists in order to be good need to have lived some life and been pushed to the breaking points a time or two, and most people inclined to such endeavors often turn to substance abuse to alleviate the pain of such moments where expectations don’t meet reality. In my daughter’s case, she has a vast intellect that is capable of a great deal—and because of that she can endure observations that are quite harsh without being broken emotionally, and thus can then articulate those elements onto a printed page. As a parent it is hard to let kids live and to defend them when the world thinks they should be doing something else. But the payoff is in the results which I am enjoying from her. Referencing all the “artistic” types that I’ve known over the years where they all fell short was that they become bitter and rather stagnant in their work. But the human mind craves more than anything optimism, the yearning to turn one more corner to get to a new reality and if a person can last long enough, they can achieve anything. Its one thing to identify what ails the world, it’s quite another to see it and work beyond those limits and I can see in Holly a path where she does this naturally, which puts her in a category of uniqueness that no school can teach—only the realities of a life well lived.

All life is about conflict, and the best of art shows those situations resolved, or the preparation of that resolution. Even the Da Vinci Mona Lisa is about that mysterious look captured in the midst of tumultuous times—that steady gaze from the mysteries of time peering at the future with a knowing smile. Exploring the Louvre in Paris the art shown there is mostly of this type and I don’t see it much differently from today’s comic book artists expressing themselves based on modern observational tendencies. Only today there are more options, and the artistic noise is much greater than it was in Da Vinci’s time. But the artistic process is very much the same, an individual witnesses’ life and puts to it hopes, fears, anxieties and even dreams that can punch through the imagination of a viewer to varying degrees. And to see any young person do that is a wonderful miracle of existence—especially when they turn out to be a kid that you’ve cared for from their very first moments to the present with lots of detail, yet without interrupting their own boons to self-awareness. Pride is a limited emotion to describe such a feeling, but it’s a start.

Rich Hoffman

Sign up for Second Call Defense here: Use my name to get added benefits.