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Holly Sumner


I became interested in plankton while browsing the scientific libraries in Woods Hole. I am drawn to the beauty of the abstract form and fascinated by the portrayal of the data. I am interested in the classifications, the ordering and organization of the groups and gleaning a character, personality, individuality from the organism that will resonate with my paintings and may form a personal connection to the viewer. In my studio, the paintings and drawings develop these traits. When the radiolaria were lining the walls of my studio I saw them as my protective radiolarian samurai. The siphonophores are leisurely, elegant, gentle and refined. The medusae are iconic and private.

My drawings layer a living organism, a microscopic radiolaria, on a background diagram of a scientific program through which its environment is analyzed and responded to.

The scale of the organism is altered to allow the viewer to see something not normally visible to the naked eye. The graphic data also represents something that is not visible - the biochemical software and hard wiring in the cell. The combination hopefully reveals a somewhat romantic appeal toward a reconciliation of the two opposing, yet interrelated forms of understanding and representing the world and appreciating a beauty that we abstractly sense rather than see.


I began observing nature with my family. My understanding was shaped by imagery on many scales; the color of a bird's wing, the hatch over a stream, a mountain ridge.

I attended a small art school, Alfred University, where my major was ceramic sculpture. After this, I traveled for several years and began drawing the landscape and my experience of it. I received my MFA in Painting from the University of Colorado. Exhibitions in Colorado included 2 person shows and the Colorado Biennial, which opened at the Denver Art Museum.

After moving to New York my work began to evolve into a more cryptic vision of nature. Group shows in New York include Wave Hill, Artists Space, The Drawing Center, Charles Cowles, Exit Art and DUMBO Art Center. One-person shows include Skep Gallery in Soho, the Boulder Museum for Contemporary Art and a two-person exhibit at Rule Gallery in Denver. I was awarded a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in 1997. More recently I have participated in shows in New York City, Brooklyn NY, Martha's Vineyard MA, Santa Fe NM, Petaluma CA and Cork, Ireland. I have done window installations at Mixed Greens in NYC and Create Space in Beacon, NY. My drawings are included in the flatfiles at Pierogi and Kentler International Art.

website: www.hollysumner.net