Ann Holderfield, MAEd, MLIS
Art/Reference & Instruction Librarian
I am the Art/Reference and Instruction Librarian on the Beaufort Campus at USCB. For the past three years, I also served as Director and Co-Director of the Sea Islands Center Gallery. I have undergraduate degrees in painting/drawing and art history from the University of Georgia, a master’s degree in art education from the University of Georgia, and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of South Carolina. I have taught studio art, art appreciation, and art history from K12 through college and have worked in a variety of libraries and in art-related jobs. I am interested in the creative and research processes of artists, as well as teaching students to inquire about art and ideas.
As a non-objective painter, my work is less about one concept or topic than it is about the many complexities, patterns, and layers of our realities. We live in a world full of systems, from the anatomical, neurological, biological, to the informational, psychological, cultural, and that of communication. Our belief systems are heavily layered in history and culture and are influenced by our own cycles of existence. In painting and drawing patterns, I am referencing these larger patterns and systems, but I am also referencing the patterns and processes of my immediate interactions with my physical, sensory, intellectual, energetic, and spiritual environments.
Reflecting Upon My Artwork and Creating During the Pandemic
One of the effects of the pandemic on my life has been that I spend more time at home, in my studio, and in nature. I have been thinking about why I started painting 30 years ago and what it is about my practice that I find sustaining and that sustains me. It is very connected to nature. When USCB shifted into virtual instruction in the spring, my life became centered in my home and in my yard. I started sitting in my backyard, just lying in my chaise lounge, looking at up at the sky and looking down at the little chickweed flowers that grow in the sandy dirt. I have huge natural lantana bushes that attract moths and butterflies. The bird chatter in the spring was sharp and constant, as well as the motion of the hummingbirds that flew to the wild honeysuckle in the cedars. I started a raised bed garden for the first time. My parents are gardeners, but I have never grown my own vegetables, only herbs and flowers. I watched my cucumbers and tomatoes flower, counted the bumble bees and honeybees and butterflies as they moved from flower to flower, and watched the growth of the fruit. I watched the plants become diseased. I read about soil and soil organisms. And I watched some of my plants die. I’ve been thinking about life and death, as I’m sure we all have been during the pandemic. My parents are in their late seventies. What if they get sick before I can see them again, as has happened with so many people? I’ve been thinking about our place as humans in this world, along with nature and our environment and people that are different from ourselves. What is our place in this pattern? Are we not all connected? How do our belief systems and ideas impact others?
Our interactions with nature and our nature experiences have been a source of inspiration for me and a research interest. I am interested in our nature/environmental aesthetic experiences, from the 18th century British philosophers, to the historic and contemporary teaching of nature in art, to transcendentalism, to the metaphors of the wild and Southern nature, to perspective and our geometric view of nature, to folk artists and nature mystics, to earth-centered spiritualities, to contemporary artwork that deals with nature, and more. Recently, I’ve been thinking about the meditative and spiritually fulfilling significance of my nature walks and the time I spend in nature in my yard. I live in Beaufort, which is not far from Hunting Island and encircled by the Beaufort River and the greens and blues of the marsh views. I see purple morning glories and passion flowers dotted within massive overlapping vines and green leaves covering huge magnolia and other trees. I see wavy Spanish moss draping down from branches. I miss going home to Alabama, which has been the center of my nature experiences throughout my life. I miss walking through the pastures and the forests, seeing the stones, the pond, the dragonflies, and hearing the coyotes at night and watching for deer. Of living in a forest and in a house that my family built and where they lived in nature.
I guess the question I keep coming back to, and that relates to my painting and why I paint in this manner, is - what is our place in this world? What is our function here? What is our responsibility to our world and each other?
I have been very influenced by the immediacy and mark-making gestures of the Abstract Expressionists, especially the abstract expressionist women. How is it that the gesture of line, whether in charcoal or paint, can be viewed as a male activity? How can perception of a color (and even feeling) and the translation of that into a painting be gendered? How do lines and colors convey a spiritual metaphor? How does the process of painting become a meditative and energetic practice for the painter? And how is that experience conveyed to the viewer/experiencer of the work? Is it ok for a viewer to feel happy when they are viewing one of my paintings? Is that a ‘lesser’ result of my artwork? Are feelings ‘less than’ intellect? Does the experience need to be transformational? Can it be? How does the viewing environment play into the experience? How does artwork carry us into another realm? I’m thinking of Mark Rothko’s work in the Rothko Chapel in Houston, of Joan Mitchell’s exhibition that I experienced at the Birmingham Museum of Art, and of Hilma Af Klint’s work that I have not seen in person. To bring it to the sensory, I do feel that I am painting energy. It is not a literal ‘how I feel’ energy….but an entire world of energy that we can’t see, but that is underneath all of our systems, but something that every item of our universe(s) has in common.
My artwork is more about asking questions and being aware of the unknown and the complexities of the “known”.