Interview with Trisha Holt

Meet Trisha Holt, Studio Angelico’s new Photography and Video Professor and Gallery Director.

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LaRoy: Looking from the outside in, what do you think is distinctive about Studio Angelico?

Holt: I think the most distinctive thing about Studio Angelico is that it is a community of artists with collaborative work-spaces where artists work alongside one another. I also think that the education is quite distinctive. I have been struck by the way that the foundations classes stressed making work that is unprecedented and reflects one’s own research. To me this means we are teaching young artists the value of adding your voice to a discipline or a genre, rather than echo what has been done before – and this starts from day one. Students develop a point of view here.

L: What plans do you have for the Photography/Video Program?
H: My plans for the Photography and Video Program are growing, and I have a few things up my sleeve. I encourage a research-based and experimental approach to image-making through the lens, the print, and the screen. We research in many forms – from theoretical texts, 90’s horror films, psychology, family history, and memes, and this broadens our thinking and knowledge and helps us to more fully understand and capitalize on the things that make us unique thinkers and makers. I start with a strong foundation in Photography and Video so you can operate the tool like an extension of your hand. The same goes for post-production editing and output to a print or a screen. We do rigorous demos, tutorials, and in class work to exercise these muscles until they become muscle memory. And then we start to break it apart! I encourage students to fail faster, in their gestures, concepts, and formal strategies. Failing faster is the best way to learn how the work is or isn’t working.

L: What can we expect for Klemm Gallery under your direction?
H: The Klemm Gallery space offers us a unique and fruitful way to reflect on the contemporary art field and bring to campus those makers and thinkers that reflect the conversations that are happening in our studios. My vision for the Klemm Gallery is as a space to connect artists and our academic audience. For me, the gallery offers artists space to test out new ideas and exhibit in new ways and for the artists to share their work with a broader community and for us to be introduced to challenging works of art. Contemporary art can be seen and made beyond big metropolitan centers.

In the space, you will see artists thinking about and using space in new and interesting ways, both pictorially and physically. You will see artists who blur the lines between mediums to make work that is difficult to categorize but exciting to experience and contemplate. And more!

L: Tell me about your own art.
H: In my artistic practice, I think about feminist performance art and the history of cinema to make work about the economics of looking and violence. I do this through photographs, installations, and manipulating the photographic print. My work is part performance and part large-scale collage, with inspiration from early Dada collage artists’ use of advertising material and commercial byproducts. I often seek out amateur archives as inspiration or source material. My research is varied - from the aesthetics and methodical gestures of serial killers (partially influenced by my mom’s run in with Ted Bundy), to cutting images for cinema and image production, and how women and marginalized bodies are represented.

In my work, I often use photographic prints as props. Images are appropriated and altered, with echoes of YouTube videos or cult classic movies. Memory is displaced or contested, and what the lens sees is actually happening - though it appears uncanny.

L: Tell me about your professional background.
H: My professional background ranges from working in Photo studios as a photographer and photo retoucher right out of undergrad, to working for artists in their studios helping to produce their work. I have worked in digital photographic labs and darkrooms making fine art prints and taught and worked in academia as an educator developing programs and public events. My favorite job was teaching Photoshop to Senior citizens or maybe when I worked for a museum photographing the 1,700+ patent light bulbs that Thomas Edison created before he got to the one that worked. My artwork is represented by a gallery in Detroit, called David Klein Gallery. I am lucky to be able to show my work in galleries, museums, and art fairs all of the United States - this year here in Adrian, in Chicago in November, and in Pittsburgh this December. Come next year my work will be in California and Chicago again, so far.

L: What kinds of employment and exhibition opportunities are there for students who concentrate in your area? 

H: Photographers are lucky in that they have a lot of options with the skills and techniques they acquire in school. You can work in the commercial industry as a photographer, videographer, retoucher, digital artist in photo studios, for magazines, advertising companies and small creative firms. In a fine art capacity, you can work in photo studios or labs producing fine prints, working for artists in their studios, and at auction houses or museums photographing art objects and exhibitions. Photographs can work freelance or even start their own companies where they shoot events and portraits.

L: What advice do you have for students who concentrate in photography and video? 

H: Learn your tools inside and out so you don’t have to think about them anymore. Make a lot of mistakes so you know what doesn’t work. Listen to the hard feedback; it is more helpful than the accolades. Try all aspects of image making so you know what you love and know what you hate. Learn as much as you can about the studio and its operation so you can easily step into a job later or make your own work. The same goes for post-production editing and outputting to screens and prints. Be curious about what other image makers are doing and, more importantly, what you aren’t seeing out in the world. Build an artist’s community here; you will probably know those people forever and go on vacations with them to Iceland when you are older. Be nice and don’t make images that repeat every other image we all know too well. Make something new.

Peter BarrComment