Park had a demanding teaching style (he was
known to paint right on his students’ canvases), and as
an apprentice and student Holland was so influenced
by his professor he eventually needed to break away
to develop his own style. The chance came during his
senior year at Berkley when he received a Fulbright
Grant to work in Chile.
Holland was also the recipient of a grant from the
National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim
Fellowship, and his work began with traditional oil
painting on canvas with identifiable imageries such
as landscape. During the ‘60s, though still intrigued
with symbolism, he became infatuated with three-dimensionality and began to build structures out
of canvas and wood. Later, while living in Los
Angeles and teaching at U.C.L.A., Holland discovered
oversized panels of fiberglass made by greenhouse
manufacturing companies. The only paint that would
stick to the panels was epoxy, a thin paint used for
boats and airplanes.
Holland eventually lost the imagery to complete
abstraction in the mid-‘70s. In these later metaphysical
works, the color and form dominated while still
maintaining the mystery. As an outdoorsman always
influenced by his affinity for nature (a bright moon
streaking through oak leaves inspired the freestanding
painting Pope Valley Moonlight), he returned to subtle,
figurative symbolism and still life elements in the ‘80s
and works today in both genres.
Working his entire career without an assistant,
Holland never begins a painting with a plan. “I don’t
want to know what it’s going to look like when it’s
finished. For me, the whole process of painting is
mystical because it is a search and a surprise. If I’m
surprised I want others to be surprised,” he explains.
Many of the works included in the survey are made
of sheets of fiberglass or aluminum that were cut by
the artist, then lustrously painted with epoxy using
oil and pigment he mixes himself. Layer upon layer
of paint achieves a luminosity so infinite the viewer
is unwittingly swept into the depths of his fluid-yet-dripping strokes. “I paint in multiple layers because
I am always searching,” says the artist. Mistakes can
be made during the process. He illustrates: “Epoxy is
very forgiving. If it is still wet, I can scrape or wash
off the color.” Holland also works on paper, copper,
Harry W. Anderson and Margaret Anderson,
considered to be among the greatest 20th-century
American art collectors in the world, have nine
pieces of Holland’s work in the Anderson Collection.
According to “Hunk,” a moniker given to Mr.
Anderson by friends and family, “He (Holland)
introduced the idea that paintings do not have to just
be on walls. He basically creates objects but maintains
the integrity of paintings on these ‘freestanding
paintings.’ He is a painter as well as a sculptor.”
The Andersons donated Holland’s Votto, a large
Tom Holland, Pope Creek #5 (side 1), epoxy on aluminum, 72 x 66 x 20 in.
Tom Holland, Rake, epoxy on aluminum, 83 x 60 x 2 in.