Rosehips Folk Art Gallery
Est. 1984 - Barbara C. Brogdon Prop.
Phone 706.878.8100

Lonnie Holley

Born: February 10, 1950
Birmingham, AL
Resides: Alabama
 

Holley is considered one of the foremost black folk artists in America. He is known for his dramatic sandstone carvings, paintings and his unusual environment. One of 27 children, Lonnie attended school through the seventh grade. As a child he helped his grandmother dig graves. At fourteen after abuse in foster homes, Holley ran away to Louisiana. He worked as a short-order cook in restaurants in Louisiana, Florida, and Ohio. In 1972, he returned to Birmingham and continued to work as a cook. At 31, he married and is the father of five children. His wife is incarcerated. Lonnie's first art came from tremendous grief and pain in 1979 at the death of two nieces who died in a house fire. His depression drove him to an attempted suicide. Holley then decided to turn his grief into a positive force. He made tombstones that his sister could not afford to buy for her children's graves. Lonnie says that at the time of his suicide attempt he asked the Lord to "Take me to the top." The Lord told him to "Make art." Holley then started creating an environment of found-object sculptures that would eventually cover the entire property that had been bought by his grandfather. His work eventually came to the attention of the Smithsonian Institution and as a result was included in "More Than Land and Sky," a traveling exhibition that originated in 1981 at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. In his own words, Lonnie is preaching a message against the "cruel and the bad." His sandstone carvings, paintings and assembled sculptures speak of racial and social issues.