Loie Hollowell is recognized for her paintings that evoke bodily landscapes and sacred iconography, using geometric shapes to move a figure or its actions into abstraction.
Originating in autobiography, her work explores themes of sexuality, often through allusions to the human form with an emphasis on women’s bodies.
The investigation of autobiography became evident in Hollowell’s work from graduate school, which explored the use of gradient staining techniques on cotton supports as a metaphor for intimate spaces—meditations on sleep and bodily fluids. These canvases evolved into figurative painting, introducing female nudes as subject matter as well as the use of reflection and mirroring. Her work then shifted toward abstraction, characterized by radiating symmetrical silhouettes and a pulsating color palette.
Hollowell uses line drawing as a point of departure, pushing personal or metaphorical depictions of the body into a lexicon of sacred shapes: mandorla, ogees, and lingams. She then sketches over her drawing in pastel, working out details of color and texture, which she then replicates in oil paint. The scale of her work also carries significance, relating to specific dimensions of the body—the head, torso, and groin. By using a language of symmetry and often limiting her compositions to a single axis, Hollowell intentionally slows the pace of her investigation, allowing her to expand on her motifs from canvas to canvas.
Furthering her exploration of depth and dimensionality, Hollowell’s work combines painterly illusion with an accumulation of medium. Covering poplar panel with linen, she sculpts an uneven painting surface in a mixture of hard molding paste and sawdust, coating it with gesso to achieve a blank white surface. She further builds upon this surface in a relief of fine brushstrokes and sponged paint, producing a painted and sculpted topography of sinuous forms.
With strong colors, varied textures, and geometrical symmetry, Hollowell’s practice is situated in lineage with the work of the Transcendental Painting Group (1938–41), Georgia O’Keeffe, Gulam Rasool Santosh, and Judy Chicago.