Painting Memory – Holly Keogh, ASC Emerging Creators Fellowship Recipient

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Charlotte artist Holly Keogh, an ASC Emerging Creators Fellowship recipient.
Charlotte artist Holly Keogh, an ASC Emerging Creators Fellowship recipient. Photo by Jon Strayhorn.
By Jillian Mueller

Charlotte-based visual artist Holly Keogh is heading out for spring break in the middle of September.

As part of her 2021 ASC Emerging Creators Fellowship activities, Keogh created a new body of work that will be among the over 100 curatorial exhibitions featured in this month’s SPRING/BREAK Art Show in New York City.

While Keogh’s work has been displayed nationally and internationally – she won a People’s Choice Award at the Pienkow Artist Residency in Poland in 2019 – she has been creating dreamy, large-scale figurative oil paintings in Charlotte for over a decade. She graduated with degrees in fine art and art history from UNC Charlotte in 2014 and has since been working, speaking and showing art in galleries and creative spaces across the Queen City.

Her work, which aims to “render visible our desire to preserve experience,” pushes beyond the boundaries of traditional oil painting. Keogh is constantly exploring and expanding upon a wide variety of painting, printmaking and other multimedia techniques to capture a range of feelings and themes evoked by the examination of memory and nostalgia in her work.

During her artist residency at McColl Center for Art + Innovation in 2020, Keogh discovered a new method to create large-scale paintings by combining techniques of printmaking and oil painting.

“I feel like I’m always playing around and always having this conversation between printmaking and painting,” said Keogh.

This evolution of Keogh’s earlier approach, in which she created oil paintings with cropped and intentionally hazy and distorted images, compliments her exploration of memory.

“I had been looking towards my family photo album as an archive that I was taking images out [of] and re-contextualizing,” she said. “I was kind of thinking that if I could project onto these images and edit them, they’re getting a process to make new narratives out of them…and I wanted the paint itself to break down like a memory and dissolve.”

Keogh began using her body weight to roll large-scale images onto folded canvases with upholstery foam, which she found created a product which captured “the cloudy quality of memory.” With her Emerging Creators Fellowship, Keogh has been able to expand on this technique. She developed her photography skills, which allows her to capture her own photographic images and bring a new level of autonomy to her work.

Although she is excited for her travels, Keogh is passionate about her creative roots in Charlotte and considers the Queen City’s art community to be her home base.

“It’s an exciting time in the Charlotte arts community right now because it’s growing and I feel like when I first graduated college there weren’t as many places for members of the arts community to meet each other and to overlap,” Keogh said. “Now I feel like there are so many different grassroots projects like Goodyear Arts, BLKMKT, the [Brand the Moth] collective and many more places and everyone is meeting each other. There are so many chances to meet new people. It just makes it feel like it’s a larger art community than it ever has been.”