A Unique Blend of Meyerowitz and Hopper
written by Joan Graham
This article was printed in the September 1996 issue of A-PLUS
Art/Antiques/Design Cape Cod Edition
For artist Jim Holland, being near the shore - as far out as a creature who breathes air can go, with the whole horizon before him - is the most important place to be and summer the most important time. Holland’s work reflects these twin passions for sea and summer. His landscape paintings are filled with light and capture many moods of the season. He rarely paints a winter scene and says, “Somehow I just like to paint heat.”
The light is the main thing that draws him, especially strong light and shadow. “I particularly like back lit scenes with the light coming right at you. Forms in the foreground can get more interesting. It’s a much more elemental scene with a lot of the other details washed away.”
Several artists have inspired and affected Holland’s work. Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth and Georgia O’Keefe were early influences. They were representational artists - although each painted a very different kind of realism - at a time when abstract expressionism reigned. A later source of inspiration was the drawings of Georges Seurat which Holland first saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. “Seurat’s paintings don’t do much for me.” Holland admits, “but his drawings are incredible. They changed my whole way of drawing.” He appreciates Seurat’s general approach to form in his drawings, the softness and the murkiness. “I was reinvigorated by the work of Fairfield Porter.” Holland says of another artist whose work is meaningful to him and who also incorporated the feel of summer in his paintings.
Holland looks at photography as much as at paintings and particularly admires the work of Joel Meyerowitz who, he exclaims, can “photograph heat”...”you could put Hopper and Meyerowitz in a blender and the result you would get is me.”
Although originally from upstate New York where he worked for many years in the field of advertising and graphic design, Holland did not find the Hudson River - a majestic source of inspiration for many painters-an attractive subject. Nor has he been inspired by the Pacific Coast. However, he has conducted his own “Atlantic survey” over a period of years traveling from Maine to Florida with stops along the way at Cape Ann, Rhode Island, the Jersey shore, Long Island, the Delaware shore, Cape Hatteras, Charleston, and Key West. He prefers the Brewster flats or the “bayou allure” of marshy areas on Cape Cod and points to one of the Cape’s distinguishing features; “a shoreline that faces every direction.”
Holland visited the region for 20 years before moving to the Cape last October. “Cape Cod feels much more like home” than other places to Holland , who lives in Yarmouthport close to his light and airy studio on Route 6A. He adds that even during the last 10 years when he lived in New York, most of his paintings were Cape scenes. He exhibits his work at the Left Bank Gallery in Wellfleet and off-Cape at RVS Fine Arts in Southampton, New York. He has also exhibited throughout New England in various one-person and group shows.
In addition, his work is part of private and institutional collections throughout the U.S. and Europe.
Once fond of acrylics, Holland says of his days working in that fast drying medium, “I had to paint with a brush in one hand and a mister in the other.” He couldn’t get the masterful quality he wanted and switched to oil, which he claims is like soft butter and therefore more satisfying. Most of his oils are large and make viewers feel they could step right into them. Indeed, you could almost trail your fingers through the waters surrounding the weathered dinghy in one of his paintings. Although he still uses watercolors, Holland has recently taken a more relaxed approach to his medium. He isn’t sure yet how that might work its way into his oils, but he is certain it will somehow.
Although fully a representational painter, Holland strives for form and color. He does not try to capture every detail of the photo-realism style he flirted with for a while. People rarely make an appearance in his work, and when they do, they are part of a scene, not the focus, more often appreciating the view they share with us. They are usually involved in solitary pursuits, walking along the shore, fishing, often alone but not lonely. Even in a group, as in the watercolor The Boys on the Pier, Holland’s people do not primarily interact with each other. Holland is continuously looking for his “response to the solitude and stillness one can feel on the shore.”
Holland compares sculpture to ballet. “I just don’t get it," he says. What appreciation he does have for sculpture, however, comes through architecture. Architecture is an important feature of his painting, too, both in the Cape houses and cottages he paints and in the details of the Adirondack chairs, lifeguard stations and fences which are recurring themes in his work. He often photographs whatever captures his eye, but if he doesn’t see it the way he wants to see it, he will sometimes shoot a scene several times until he is satisfied. He usually works from photographs because he loves to paint the light and water, and he prefers to work indoors.
Initially Holland assumes every painting will be a disaster. If asked about a work in progress, he states honestly that he doesn’t know how it is coming and doesn’t know until he is about 75 percent through if it will be good. Sometimes he knows jut how to approach a certain work and other times he says, “I can spend a whole weekend figuring out in the back of my mind how to paint a picture.”
To your benefit, the many moods of the Cape, the long twilight's which affect the color of the light, add the interaction of sea, sky and light continue to provide enough raw material to fill Jim Holland’s canvases with his own special vision of Cape Cod.