Painted in 2014, Lady in Green demonstrates Loie Hollowell’s ability to synthesise light, colour and form into powerful explorations of sexual experience. With its undulating shapes, pulsating rhythms and luminous, radial patterns, the work transforms abstract geometries into expressions of human sensuality. Her use of bold colours and dramatic lighting create a powerful illusion of depth: ‘those areas of chiaroscuro and high-intensity light are places of arousal’, she explains. ‘The pulsing light is like the body’s energy – the pulsing of sex or the pulsing of the heart’ (L. Hollowell, quoted in Wall Street International Magazine, 29 September 2017). Born in 1983, Hollowell is frequently described as a modern-day Georgia O’Keeffe, and indeed draws much inspiration from the latter’s practice. Unlike her predecessor, however, she deliberately encourages erotic readings of her works, delighting in their allusions to male and female anatomy. Further art historical cues populate her practice: from tantric, transcendental and feminist art forms, to the work of Judy Chicago, Salvador Dalí, Op Art and the Colour Field painters. ‘Colour and light are always the driving factors in my work’, explains Hollowell, ‘and my body is the conceptual length that brings the viewer in and keeps me engaged’ (L. Hollowell, quoted in E. Spicer, ‘Loie Hollowell: Dominant/Recessive’, Studio International, 11 September 2018).
Hollowell works on her paintings over periods of weeks and months, always beginning with a set of drawings. ‘I do a bunch of really quick sketches and doodles in my little nighttime journal’, she explains. ‘That will develop into a drawing that I will make on Bristol paper and if I really like it I will grid it out and grid that out onto the canvas’ (L. Hollowell, quoted in R. Kaiser-Schatzlein, ‘Interview: Loie Hollowell in Sunnyside’, Two Coats of Paint, 23 September 2015). She works with meticulous attention to detail, cultivating rich textures and fine-tuning the relationship between colour and form. Whilst many of her constructs draw upon religious iconography – the medieval almond-shaped ‘mandorla’, for example, or the gothic arch-shaped ‘ogee’ – others are inspired by the Art Deco architecture of New York, where she lives and works. Her fascination with light, meanwhile, owes much to her upbringing: ‘I’m actually from outside San Francisco’, she explains, ‘and that Californian light is something really special, like what O’Keeffe experienced in New Mexico and translated into her paintings. A lot of my colours – these bright, bold colours – come from embracing my Californian childhood’ (L. Hollowell, quoted in H. Black, ‘Loie Hollowell: Fluorescent Light & Full Bellies’, Elephant, 21 June 2019). The frisson between these different elements is brought to a climax in her finished paintings, producing an effect that is simultaneously visceral and spiritual.