I met Desirèe Holman on a rainy morning in early December at her studio in Oakland. Her studio was located behind her house with a very nice garden/backyard in between the two. My visit with Desirèe was great, our conversation flowed like a meandering river through familiar and unfamiliar canyons. We talked about a range of topics including indigo children, learning to speak Chinese, breatharians, cats, CCA, and how my mom and her would probably be friends because of their mutual interests. Desirèe is an extremely talented artist, and the research she does in preparation for each project is long and very thorough, but the work is on another level because of it. It was really fun getting to know this very talented artist who has a lot going for her right now and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Desirèe Holman.
How long have you lived in California? What brought you to Oakland?
I moved to California 17 years ago from the American South for the culture and because I had family here. After bouncing back and forth between Oakland and San Francisco for about 10 years, I have really put roots down in Oakland.
What are things in the world that drive your work? Or what things do you think about when you go into the studio?
Before getting to the heart of your question, allow me to preface that I am a project-based artist making an interconnected oeuvre consisting of unique chapters. Each chapter is a project that consists of several years of focused research, followed by production. That said, on the surface, the subject matter of said projects vary but all circle around the themes of identity, social transgression, and alternative realities. These are the topics that drive my work.
Before I go into active production of my work, I’m thinking about a particular cultural bay or niche, for example: reborn doll makers; occultists or role-playing gamers to name a few. I’m wrestling with why they believe what they believe and what their belief structures reveal about the broader culture and human nature at large.
While my work is very much driven by research and my thoughts, by the time I begin production, I am less interested in what I have been thinking about and learning. Quite honestly, if I get too hung up on the thoughts, it’s a hinderance. While in production, I am striving to “think” with my hands and with the images in my head. Come to think of it, it’s a kind of “anti-think,” which should not be confused with anti-intellectual. Rather, hands-on-thinking is just a different way of engaging with ideas.
How much does science fiction, as a genre influence you? Humor?
I’m interested in fantasy and fiction at large, including, but not specifically, SciFi and humor.
How do things change when you are working on paper vs. working with sculptures/ costumes or performance?
Those processes are fully interconnected for me. The drawings, paintings, sculptures and props like costumes are all my intensive think/anti-think time. Again, I’m thinking with my hands while I make these objet d’arts. The objects are, in part, my story board. They help me to prepare for the work with people and cameras. Making a video or performance is the fullest, most complete expression of the project. The objects are very important freeze frames, highlighting moments and the “thought” process.
What’s on your reading/listening list lately?
Culture Class by Martha Rosler
The Book of Dead Philosophers by Simon Critchley
Ghosts: Death’s Double and the Phenomena of Theatre by Alice Rayner
Outside of art, what are a few good things you’ve found lately?
I am learning to read, write and speak Mandarin Chinese. One outcome is a fledgling focus on Mandarin language films. Recently, I’ve revisited a couple of very well-know ones: Farewell My Concubine by Chen Kaige and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Ang Lee. Both are extraordinary.
What’s coming up in the near future for your work?
This upcoming Spring 2015, I will begin shooting for a live action video as part of my current body of work, Sophont. The end result will be a multi-channel video installation with potential for a concurrent live performance component.
You can find more of Desirèe’s work at http://www.desireeholman.com/ .
Below is a list of other upcoming exhibitions and events.
Solo Exhibition, “Sophont,” Aspect Ratio, Chicago, IL. 1/30/15-3/1/15
Group Exhibition, “Artadia Awardees,” The Battery, San Francisco, CA.
12/16/14 - 2/20/15
Group Exhibition, ”40th Anniversary Exhibition,” Kala Art Institute & Gallery, Berkeley, CA. 1/15/15 – 3/21/15
Group Exhibition, “The Vastness is Bearable,” Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara Satellite @ Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara, January 25, 2014 to Sunday, February 15, 2015
Residency & Award, New Alumni Award, Headlands Center for the Arts, March 2015