Professor Frank Holt is an Associate Professor of English and Humanities at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College Clarkston campus. He is also an artist who is featured in the Clarkston Fine Arts building’s ground floor gallery. His current exhibit is entitled “Angels, Men & Monsters” and is available for viewing until February 19.
Hannah E. Maddox of The Collegian’s Clarkston office, interviewed Professor Holt to learn more about his exhibit, inspirations and what meanings the exhibit holds.
Hannah E. Maddox: Professor Holt, I was very intrigued by your exhibit. One thing of great interest to me was that I did not notice any particular separation between the angels, men and monsters in the arrangement of the pieces. Was this intentional?
Professor Frank Holt: Yes. One of the questions that I am asking is what are the boundaries between angels men and monsters, especially since we refer to people we think of as good and caring as angels, and people who do bad or evil things as monsters.
HEM: What do you see as the boundaries between the three subjects of your exhibit? Are these boundaries solidified or more flexible in nature?
FH: In my lecture “The Theology and Literature Behind the Painting” I talked about my background as a medievalist — literature and languages from the British Isles, Germany, and Northern France; a graduate student of theology in the University of the South’s graduate program in theology (EfM), and as an Episcopal Monk (ordersaintanthony.org). In terms of the monstrous being outsiders (Cain, Beowulf and his mother, for example), in between medieval times and modern times, we have considered those who now are looked at as having mental illnesses as being monstrous or possessed along with those whose bodies were crippled or afflicted in any way.
HEM: How did you find the inspiration to look at the differences between angels, men and monsters?
FH: Rather than the inspiration to paint on these topics, when the gallery director, Don Dougan, and I were looking at all my works, I realized that this was an unconscious theme that ran through multiple decades and multiple media. The academic training of a medievalist and a theologian paired with my 45 years of photography and artwork, much of which has focused on men in action – soccer, Army ROTC photographer, male models, karate tournaments (Joe Corley & the Kim Brothers, specifically), drag queens and rock singers, the male stripper series — is what I believe led to the subconscious boiling together of ingredients.
HEM: What motivated you to include the strippers as an example of men in your exhibit?
FH: Even though nude figure drawing is considered essential to a well-rounded art education, GPC over the last couple of years has had some difficulty finding men who would model completely nude. Today, both male strippers and drag queens live on the margins of society as outsiders. So do people struggling with the invisible diseases of mental illness whether it is PTSD veterans, boys fighting bipolar illness or many of the homeless left or thrown onto the streets.
HEM: In a few of your pieces’ descriptions you mention the metamorphosis of the works. Do you often find that there is a change of plan or idea in the middle of a work?
FH: One of my favorite artists argues that there are two types of artists – one plans extensively and builds up to follow the plan; the other starts with a blank space or piece of paper and sees what happens. I’m sort of in the middle. I like to start with an idea and then see where the paint or the materials take it, so yes, my paintings frequently metamorphose around a generic starting idea — even the landscapes.