Hollis Brown Thornton

illex is delighted to welcome American artist Hollis Brown Thornton. In working with a wide variety of media, from photography to acrylic to marker, Hollis explores memory, identity, reality, science, and origin.

Please enjoy his work and his interview :)

VHS (screen print on paper)

Secrets of the Sea, Version 1 of 5 (pigment transfer on paper)

Sunset On a Wall (acrylic, pigment transfer on paper)

Colors That Don’t Exist (permanent marker on paper)

You’ve said in your artist’s statement that VHS tapes represent outdated things that continue to exist, are bound to us by their initial value, and are now wound up in habit, nostalgia, or loyalty. In working with ideas and images of nostalgia and memory, such as VHS tapes of the past, is there something that you are being be loyal to or something that you would like us all to be loyal to?

Not at all. I’m against loyalty to a belief system or idea from the past. If anything, it is a criticism of how people grow up in an environment, surrounded by certain habits or beliefs and they somehow feel that is the only way to be. The VHS tapes are a form of self criticism. My dad was about to throw them out and I had to keep them. I grew up with those things and I can’t let go, even to this day. In other words it is identifying in myself the same weakness that I see in others.

In Secrets of the Sea, there appears an outline of a boy in solid red shorts. We the viewers can feel that he’s there, we can know that he’s there, but we cannot see him exactly. In bringing this boy to us, what feelings do you wish to provoke?

Science works for me because it is empirical, based in observation, learning, and experiment. So I’m inclined to believe the scientific idea that we all evolved from tiny organisms that originated in the ocean. Yet I’m also completely capable of believing something different if discovered otherwise. So with Secrets of the Sea, we came from the ocean and we’re made of water. Erasing the figure implies that we’re temporary. The squared-edge lines coming out of the figure illustrate how we are becoming more and more intertwined with digital reality.

In Sunset On a Wall, can you tell us about the negative space you’ve created?

The erasure in that image connects the two figures, representing our dependence on and desire to understand things happening around us, as well as our dependence on others to learn. That also hides the identities of the figures, letting them be anyone. And finally, it is a fragmented, incomplete image, representing the incomplete nature of memories as well as the fragmented nature of the figures in the image, giving them that inherent motivation to understand their surroundings.

In Colors That Don’t Exist, you show us a UFO with the words “I Want to Believe.” Are you equating a UFO with memory, and is memory as make-believe as a UFO?

I think to believe in anything you have to somehow want to believe. People believe a wide array of things throughout history that explain the world. It is that leap of faith people take. I want to believe in science because it attempts to self-correct itself. As for memory being make-believe as a UFO, it definitely has the vague quality of the UFO. I think, like a lot of beliefs, a UFO fills in the blank of a question we can’t answer. Memories fill in the blank of a gone past. Sure a lot of things in our memories happened. But there is also the idealizations that happen over time, slanted by how we want to remember the past.

please visit Hollis’s website and Flickr for more exploration of material and meaning.

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