Lisa Holley’s art
served on ‘wry’
By PAT MURPHY
Express Staff Writer
There are artists and there are
accomplished artists. Then there’s Lisa Holley, who serves up her
paintings on wry with maybe just a little ham added.
She’s just completed a black and
white poster for the Caritas Chorale’s upcoming April performances—a
stalk of Rocky Mountain iris in whose buds and leaves can be seen 25
small human heads and faces.
Holley, a perky Sun Valley
grandmother, has perfected an art form with roots in a style pioneered
by 16th century Italian artist Guiseppe Arcimboldo, whose human
portraits were composed of fruits, vegetables, animals and books and who
became an icon for surrealists.
Arcimboldo’s inventive artistic
impressions tended to the grotesque.
But not Holley’s work. She has
found a way to take one group of objects (usually wildlife) and
literally anatomically embody them within elements of plants, flowers or
other animals in ways that show their interactions in life.
The results are playful images
that draw appreciative oohs and aahs, smiling curiosity and, not
incidentally, a thriving business for Holley.
Consider her profile painting of a
Within the outline of the Lab is a
mélange of strokes resembling graceful leaves that, when examined
closely, really are objects in a Lab’s life: a duck, fish, field mice, a
dog biscuit, field rodents.
Or the saber tooth cat, whose
portrait is composed of colorful flowers and leaves actually
representing wild jungle animals.
A trout’s body incorporates bugs,
flies and other invertebrates.
Her rendition of an owl includes
in the elaborate flora small animals an owl might encounter in the
woods: a brown bat, flying squirrel, chipmunk, rat and the like.
A painting commissioned by
Albertson College shows the world with continents sprouting the Idaho
state flower, syringa, with roots flowing out of Idaho.
The organization Pheasants Forever
commissioned its own painting, "Pheasants in a Cornfield," whose
flora-cum-concealed life includes a fruit fly, gypsy moth, spittle bug
as well as corn and other vegetation on which pheasants live.
Occasionally, she lapses into the
frivolous. Standing on a cabinet in the corner of her airy, bright
studio is a florist box lined with green tissue and a rolled up
painting, "A dozen roses that will never die."
Whimsical as more than two dozen
of these renditions may seem, they’re not quickly whipped out with a few
hurried brush strokes.
Often sparked by an idea she notes
on a pad beside her bed in the middle of the night, Holley will devote
hours researching plant and animal life and the habits of the animals
she paints. A typical animal portrait requires as long as a month to
An original color painting sells
for about $5,000, a black and white original for about $2,000, and a
print for $50.
This is a long way from the days
when Holley, a young mother, showed up in the Wood River Valley in the
late 1970s and waitressed while developing her art genre.
Her first recognition came when
the Wood River Gallery staged a competition she entered with a satirical
interpretation of an "Idaho Club Sandwich"—her artistic commentary on
the practice of Eastern Idaho farmers clubbing rabbits.
Holley won a box of crayons.
Now firmly established with a
nationwide clientele, a luxurious three level Sun Valley home generously
decorated with eclectic art, her own Internet Web site (www.LisaHolley.com)
and a greeting cards contract, Holley has added worldwide vacation
travel to her pace.
Vacation? Actually, no.
She recently returned from the
Galapagos Islands, a virtually untouched habitat of flora and fauna.
Her photographs of Galapagos life
in time will crop up somewhere in her wild kingdom art.