Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Triumvirate of Queens

This is the story of how the Three Queens came to be. The thing about painting is that it takes me on fantastical journeys both within and without. I have learned over time that the process seems to understand me better than I understand myself. I learn what I need to know by painting.  I have also learned to trust this process completely, it's a bit like getting in a boat and letting yourself drift with the river flow, being mindful that you don't get caught up in the rapids but also not controlling the boat more then is necessary to not tip over or crash along the way.

Back to the Queens. It all begins when I suddenly see an image amongst the thousands of photos in my studio. This time it was an ancient old oak tree and it suddenly jumped out of the pile of photos, luminous and wanting to be painted. I begin by deciding what size, this tree was insisting on being at least as tall as me so I chose a 60" high canvas. The larger the canvas the more gesture and movement that goes into the painting.

People are always asking me how long it takes to do a painting. Like everything in art, there are no easy answers. Sometimes paintings arrive in a day and sometimes, years. This was one of those "bursts" that came out in a day! This tree literally painted itself while I held the paintbrushes and watched in amazement as she emerged onto the canvas. It is difficult to describe but the painting seems to come directly out of my own limbs and belly, it is as though that tree's body and my own are one when I paint. When I finished painting that day I felt powerful and strong, rooted and elated all at once. I went home on top of the world. I could actually taste the painting and my limbs could feel that tree's being right inside my bones. 

I happened to be listening to "King of Limbs" by Radiohead while I painted and so I thought I'd call the painting by the same name and then it occurred to me, not KING but QUEEN of Limbs and the painting answered with a resounding YES! Then, as usually happens two more powerful images of trees that I had photographed while on residency in Vermont of yellow birches and their twisted roots popped out at me. These were the other two queens that would emerge to make the Triumvirate of Queens: Queen of Limbs, Queen of Rocks, Queen of Roots. As the other two paintings evolved I grew ever more confident and felt a surge of hope as I always do when I feel connected to the REAL world of my own feral nature.

This is when I know I am painting what I was born to paint and it doesn't matter if anyone else likes it or not, it doesn't matter if it will sell or not. Those are not the reasons I paint, these trees are the reason I paint. These trees have something to say to the world and they use me, the humble painter to speak for them. I am honoured to have their voices empower me as they do. At the moment my life is all about my work. I have become fairly successful lately with the sales of my paintings but this is a double edged sword. I am grateful for the financial support and thrilled that people resonate with the work however it is also dangerous for the paintings. I start to feel pressure to paint what people expect of me, what will sell best, what will gain me approval and make my ego feel good. These trees have reassured me that I can stay grounded in my source and return to the roots, literally of my love of the wild forest.

Time to take the Queens out into the world. This means a trip south of the border; working with a broker, papers, filling in forms, spending money, loading paintings, scheduling meeting times, etc. All of which is so opposite the world of my studio and imagination, and at times very difficult for me just because of how my brain works. However once I was through customs and driving along the Saranac River towards Tupper Lake my spirit soared again. Ahhh, to be out and with the trees and river on such a beautiful day. It was a blaring blue sky day and there was enough time in my day to stop and soak up the beauty on several occasions. These moments feed my soul and are balm to my whole being.


Arrival at the Wild Center Muesum in Tupper Lake is always a joy for me. I love this creative and interactive museum. I was greeted, as I always am, with warmth and enthusiasm. There is no better place for the Three Queens then at The Wild Center where they will be viewed by thousands and thousands of people this summer in the exhibition "The Forest and the Trees". 

Here they are, in the midst of installation at the Wild Center. I can't wait to see the whole show once it is up and running. I will post more photos of that when I go back. 

"If we surrendered to Earth's intelligence, we could rise up, rooted like trees."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Artist Project 2017

 This year's Artist Project in Toronto was an exceptional event for me. Many sales and new connections. I am so grateful for all the positive feedback on my new work and I look forward to getting back into the studio for my next solo show at Lake Placid Centre for the Arts opening June 23!

A few shots of the final booth set up on Opening Night which was very well attended as you can see!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Toronto Artist Project 2017

The last few months has seen a steady rhythmic production of new paintings. The wintery months in Montreal usually turn me into an introvert who hunkers down in the studio all day, returning home in the early evening to eat a meal and read until bedtime. The days are short, the light is limited and the temperature is cold outside. 

This year there has been the added preoccupation of a frightening political situation south of the border. There seems to be a constant barrage of information and events that is simultaneously promoting fear and hatred as it also awakens people to rise up in a shared love of humanity and our planet. It feels both inspiring and frightening to watch this tension of opposites become more and more polarized. I understand the world through intuition and feeling. It is my intuition that if we are able to hold the tension between the opposites long enough perhaps a third way will be born or made known to us. I feel the familiar crumbling away and the earth shifting, it feels dangerous and uncertain. All I can do is trust the process that is unfolding, speak up when my heart tells me to and PAINT. I paint to learn what it is I need to know. My paintings are always ahead of my own understanding of life and so I follow their lead and let them guide me.

All of this is showing up in my work as a fervent inner burning that transmutes into brighter and bolder colours!  This video is a brief glimpse into some of the newest work:


Next Tuesday I will load the car with all the new work and head for Toronto to exhibit at The Artist Project , a large contemporary Art Fair of 250 artists. Please help me to spread the word and come by yourself if you are in the area! Always a fun event to attend and I'd love to see you! Stop by at booth 922 and say hi!

The Sky of Non-Being / 36" x 48"

Winter Solstice Sky / 36" x 48" 

Wild Abandon II / 36" x 48"

Friday, December 23, 2016

Beyond Blue

A new painting that was begun at Vermont Studio Centre where I began exploring the color blue. I just finished this piece in the Montreal studio a day after Solstice.

Beyond Blue, acrylic on canvas, 36" x 48" 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mourning Light

An exhibition of recent paintings by Holly Friesen at Les Mots Tremblant 

- Opening Friday, December 16, 5-7pm -
Mont Tremblant, QC 

exhibition continues until January 21, 2017 and closes with a Brunch from 11-3pm

"The transformation of the heart is a wondrous thing, no matter how you arrive there."
~Patti Smith

This exhibition is dedicated to Walt Pascoe, the love of my life, whose passing from the earth on the solstice of last year has been mourned in the sweetest light possible.
The only way my heart could survive this loss was to paint my way through it.  After having mourned his absence for a full year I find his presence in everything I see and touch.

Read More at Creative Thresholds

Monday, November 14, 2016

Inspiration Soars!

The Vermont Studio Center is a magical kingdom for artists. I have just returned from filling my inspiration cup to the brim and am now overflowing with gratitude for the time and space spent in this unique artist-in-residency program.

The main building where we eat and gather is in an old red mill

A short walk over a bridge and through the town of Johnson brought me to my studio building, The Barbara White building. My studio, like all the studios was big and bright and inviting. I had the bonus of two windows that looked out over the Gihon River.

Over 60 artists and writers from all over the world are selected every month to come and share in this marvellous experience. There is a nice blend of socializing and privacy that is very conducive to deepening and broadening your practice as an artist.  At every delicious meal (and the food is very good) you sit beside a different artist/writer and have the best conversations about life and art. A multi-generational populace is another interesting blend to the melange of people. So much diversity of ideas, thoughts and visuals leads to a stimulating and lively environment. 

It didn't take long for me to start painting! All that white space was so inviting. The first thing I painted, which was a bit of a surprise to me, was a large painting of Walt's kiss. It was based on a photo taken by my close friend, Connie who also left this planet three months after Walt. I allowed myself to paint all my love and sadness into that piece and continued to have it hang in the space for the duration of my stay. Both Walt and Connie would have loved the Vermont Studio Center.

This was a space for playing and exploring and trying new ideas. I worked with some of Walt's materials, spray paints, oil sticks, etc. None of these works made much sense but it was such a release to be able to just play with the materials. I stapled some large canvases directly to the wall. I have never tried painting like this and the lack of bounce from the taut and unstretched canvas opened new avenues for mark making with palette knives. I actually love the unfinished edges with the raw canvas and am considering hanging these as are, without stretching them.

There were guest artists and writers who would come and speak about their work. We could choose to have the visiting artists come and discuss our work with us if we wanted to. The artists in residency were also very generous about sharing their work with the group in a short evening "slide presentation" once or twice a week. The writers would read selections of their work to us. A bombardment of inspiration from all directions.

Vermont Studio Center Residents - November 2016

Two of the visiting printmakers encouraged and guided me in the making of my first dry point prints. A whole new experience for me and one I enjoyed and hope to continue exploring more in the future.

I intentionally selected the month of November for my residency as I knew I would be less distracted by the outside world which always beckons me to explore, especially in a brand new area like this. The weather was cold and rainy a lot of the time so staying in the studio and working was often the best choice to be made. However there were some spectacular trails nearby and in spite of it being hunting season I did manage to explore some of the enchanting Vermont landscape.

 Journey's End Falls with Elisa from Argentina and Sophia from the UK. Two fun and beautiful souls who agreed to get lost in the woods with me for a few hours.

Another day Soren, a young artist from Brooklyn and I went and found this beautiful waterfall tumbling down a hillside.


One day after lunch, Heather from Maine and I went off to explore a small portion of the Vermont Long Trail which brought us to an entanglement of roots and rocks.


There is so much more to tell. I will leave out the election of Trump which cast a dark shadow throughout the community for the duration. However, I can think of no place I would have rather been than amongst this loving community of thoughtful artists and writers. 

A group of eight of us drove up into the hills to sit on a rock and watch the super full moon rise like liquid amber over the horizon and into our hearts. One of the women was a pregnant printmaker from Cleveland and her and her baby's presence made the moment even more special.

I began the month with an empty studio and canvas, not knowing a single soul. I left with a studio full of new work, and my heart full to bursting with all the new friendships that have inspired me to become more fully the person I was born to be.  I left with much hope instilled by this loving community of artists who will continue to shine their light for others to follow through a dark and treacherous time for our planet.

I will mention that after the election I turned to working on a series of smaller works. My energy level dropped as I became more reflective and I felt the need to make small intimate paintings with a quiet, neutral palette. Memories of my September morning excursion to Pink Pond in the Adirondacks was the inspiration for this gentle series that literally and metaphorically emerged from the fog.

I will be exhibiting many of these works in the upcoming show, "Mourning Light" at Les Mots Tremblant in Mont-Tremblant, QC Canada. The exhibition opens Friday, Dec 16th and continues until mid January.