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Loie Hollowell's Transcendent Bodies

April 14, 2021

Visit our Awards page for this film’s honors and recognition.

How do you paint a pregnancy? Painter Loie Hollowell creates highly abstracted and yet deeply personal representations of the human body, evoking our universal experiences of sensuality, desire, pleasure, and pain. A California native, Hollowell works with a vocabulary of elemental, organic shapes and renders them in vibrant, high-contrast color, evoking the “pure light, pure space, [and] pure emotion” of creative heroes like Robert Irwin and other California-based Light and Space movement artists.

Returning to her Ridgewood, Queens studio after her second pregnancy, Hollowell and her assistants build up sinuous forms directly upon the surface of her canvases. For Hollowell, this strategy transforms the works from two-dimensional paintings to three-dimensional hanging sculptures, upon which she can play with real and illusory light, space, and shadow. The physicality of the surfaces is echoed in the abstracted imagery that Hollowell paints upon them including reproductive organs, breasts, and other bodily forms. The artist candidly recounts the corporeal memories that have informed her work: her mother letting down in public shortly after Hollowell’s younger sister was born, the artist’s experience with abortion in her twenties, and the mental preparation for and experience of giving birth to her second child. Although often regarded as taboo, Hollowell is driven to make work about these bodily experiences all the while questioning her own creative desires and assumptions. “What is beauty and why is it beautiful?” asks the artist.

This film is among a collection that comprise Art21’s participation in the multi-institutional Feminist Art Coalition initiative. Feminist Art Coalition (FAC) is a platform for art projects informed by feminisms, fostering collaborations between arts institutions that aim to make public their commitment to social justice and structural change.

More information and credits


New York Close Up Series Producer: Nick Ravich. Director & Editor: Anna Barsan. Camera: Rose Bush. Sound: Rose Bush and Anna Barsan. Music: Blue Dot Sessions, Gisela Fullà-Silvestre, and Ryan J. Raffa. Color Correction: Addison Post. Sound Design & Mix: Gisela Fullà-Silvestre. Design & Graphics: Andy Cahill and Chips. Artwork Courtesy: Loie Hollowell. Archival Media: Artbound / KCET, City of Huntington Beach, Sharon Mollerus, and United States Navy. Thanks: Alicia Adamerovich, Brian Caverly, Linden Caverly, Felix (studio cat), Juniper Hollowell, Pace, Dan Perkins, and Hannah Root.

New York Close Up is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts; and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; Dawn and Chris Fleischner; and by individual contributors.

Digital exhibition of New York Close Up films is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Loie Hollowell

Loie Hollowell was born in 1983 in Woodland, California. She received a BFA from University of California, Santa Barbara, and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Existing between abstraction and representation, Hollowell’s vibrant and evocative paintings refer to human bodies as sites of sensuality and sexuality, desire and disgust, pleasure and pain.

“I’m experiencing pleasure and pain that anyone can experience, and that’s what I’m putting into the work.”

Loie Hollowell

From Head to Toe

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