Brent Holland

Assistant Professor
Art and Visual Culture

BFA, Missouri State University, Drawing
MFA, University of Washington, Painting

About Professor Holland
Brent Holland joined the Integrated Studio Arts faculty in the College of Design in fall 2005. He teaches classes in drawing and painting.

What projects are you working on professionally right now?
I'm in the midst of a significant collaborative endeavor with a colleague, David Ngirailemesang of Palau, with whom I became friends in grad school. Each of us is painting 25 self-portraits that will one day be exhibited together. The portraits display different perspectives of our own heads, with identical lighting, scale, composition and facial expression. The intent of the project is to address race, ethnicity, friendship, competition, and the different experiences of living in America, with the goal to challenge society to look beyond physical appearances for commonalities that exist among us all. Individual paintings from this project have already been selected for juried and invitational exhibitions.

A new project I'm working on explores concepts of bodily decay and death in relation to cultural, religious and historical frameworks. Called Funeral, the project comprises a variety of painted imagery, from tiny realist portrait miniatures to larger, invented abstract montages. I hope to obtain a Rome Prize Fellowship to do on-site research for this project in Rome, northern Europe and Egypt. I'll be presenting a paper this summer at the First Annual International Conference on the Fine and Performing Arts in Athens, Greece, and while I'm there I plan to visit and research ancient Greek archaeological sites as well.

What living artist do you most admire and why?
Gregory Gillespie, recently deceased (2002). I admire his courage, imagination and skill. He is usually put in the category of magical realism. His body of work is broad, but the majority of his paintings are so specific and detailed that he would often have a magnifying glass next to his painting when exhibited so the viewer could marvel in the details. Some artists become so skilled that they are able to repeat the same "look" over and over and become stylized. Gillespie never became trapped by skill; his work was always fresh and inventive. He was truly a citizen of the city of ideas. 

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A mechanical engineer. I'm a person who has always liked to understand how things work.

Were you always interested in painting?
I was not interested in painting until college because my upbringing did not include the arts beyond piano lessons. To the best of my knowledge, I had never seen a museum-quality painting until I was 20 years of age.  

What other career you would want to try?
Treasure hunter. History is an obsession of mine. There are so many mysteries of human civilization —  lost artifacts and even cities that, if found, could put to rest questions that are sometimes thousands of years old.

What do you find most rewarding about teaching?
Responsibility. Every student in my classroom is, in some way, asking for my help to prepare them for their future. I take this responsibility seriously.

Every day I go into the studio I consider it a learning experience. As I continue painting, I learn more about painting. I try to convey to my students that painting is not necessarily a description of a prescribed idea, but that through studio practice and effort, one gains experience and becomes more proficient, and this allows one to be open to and recognize different opportunities that may enter, affect and strengthen one's work.

What are your sources of creative inspiration?
General history. Art history. People, places and things. My work fuses a myriad of aesthetic influences ranging from 19th-century Japanese woodblock prints to American Civil War photographs to the strata of ancient Roman archeological sites. I’m interested in many things.