Lonnie Holley

He // Him // His

[ID: A portrait of a Black man standing in front of a white backdrop. He stares directly at the viewer with his left fist raised in front of his face, almost in a boxing position. However, instead of boxing gloves, his hand is adorned with silver rings and on his wrist he wears several bracelets made of plastic, beads, threads, and various fibers. On his face he wears a look of gentle concentration. His hair is greying on his head and goatee.]

Sculptor, Painter, and Musician
Atlanta, GA
2022 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by Steven H. and Nancy K. Oliver.

Lonnie Holley was born on February 10, 1950, in Birmingham, Alabama. From the age of five, Holley worked various jobs: picking up trash at a drive-in movie theater, washing dishes, and cooking. He lived in a whiskey house, on the state fairgrounds, and in several foster homes. His early life was chaotic, and Holley was never afforded the pleasure of a real childhood.

Since 1979, Holley has devoted his life to the practice of improvisational creativity. His art and music — born out of struggle and hardship but, perhaps more importantly, also out of furious curiosity and biological necessity — has manifested itself in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and sound. His sculptures are constructed from found materials in the oldest tradition of African American sculpture. Objects already imbued with cultural and artistic metaphor are combined into narrative sculptures that commemorate places, people, and events.

His works are in the collections of major museums throughout the country, are on permanent display at the United Nations, and have been displayed in the White House Rose Garden. In January 2014, Holley completed a one-month artist residency with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation on Captiva Island, Florida, site of the acclaimed artist’s studio.

Portrait photo courtesy of the artist.

  • Artwork by Lonnie Holley
    Riding Through My Roots Too Fast, 2004. Old motorcycle frame, tarp, fabric, wood, wire, dimensions 66 × 84 × 26 inches.
    [ID: A photograph of an old rusted motorbike with a long branch of wood tied to its handles. Pieces of old plastic are tied to the front wheel and the seat; wires and threads weave in and out of the frame and the wood.]
  • Artwork by Lonnie Holley
    I Can Always Fly, 2020. Paint, oil stick, spray paint, on quilt and wood, dimensions 49 × 49 inches.
    [ID: An abstract design ripples across the background, which is made of quilted material. The lines of the design look like faces in profile, painted in white forming a stark contrast against the blacks and greens of the background.]
  • Artwork by Lonnie Holley
    Faith is the Aftermath of Destruction, 2018. Collage and paint, dimensions 60 × 104 inches.
    [ID: A colorful abstract painting with a jumbled surface of markings in black, orange, yellow, and blue. Gradually, the lines take on the form of facial profiles, eyes, all laid atop one another and facing different directions.]
Artwork by Lonnie Holley Artwork by Lonnie Holley Artwork by Lonnie Holley