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Admission: $10/12 | All Ages
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 theatre, 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, hardship, but perhaps more importantly, out of furious curiosity and biological necessity, has manifested itself in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and sound. Holley’s 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 work is now in collections of major museums throughout the country, on permanent display in the United Nations, and been displayed in the White House Rose Garden. In January of 2014, Holley completed a one-month artist-in-residence with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva Island, Florida, site of the acclaimed artist’s studio.
Holley did not start making and performing music in a studio nor does his creative process mirror that of the typical musician. His music and lyrics are improvised on the spot and morph and evolve with every event, concert, and recording. In Holley’s original art environment, he would construct and deconstruct his visual works, repurposing their elements for new pieces. This often led to the transfer of individual narratives into the new work creating a cumulative composite image that has depth and purpose beyond its original singular meaning.
The layers of sound in Holley’s music, likewise, are the result of decades of evolving experimentation.
Holley’s music caught the attention of Matt Arnett, whose father has been collecting Holley’s art since the 1980s. In 2006, Matt organized the first professional recordings of Holley’s music. In 2010, Arnett set up a performance byHolley at his home. One of the people in attendance was Lance Ledbetter, founder and owner of the record label Dust-to-Digital. Deeply moved by Holley’s keyboard playing and singing, Ledbetter signed Holley to his record label. Soon after, Holley found himself in the studio again, and in 2010 and 2011, a number of studio sessions ensued. The result was the album Just Before Music. More recordings are continuing to be made to celebrate and to document one of America’s most compelling musicians. In early 2014, Holley recorded again with Richard Swift, acclaimed musician and producer at his studio, National Freedom, in Cottage Grove, Oregon.
In addition to the studio sessions, Holley began touring as a musician. In August and September of 2013, Holley toured the West Coast with Deerhunter. That tour was followed by a tour of the East Coast with Bill Callahan, and in November and December of 2013, Holley had his first tour through Western Europe (Spain, Portugal, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands, England, and France). Holley has been joined on stage or in the studio by a variety of musicians, including members of Deerhunter, Black Lips, The War on Drugs, Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, Bon Iver, Julia Holter, Megafaun, as well as Ben Sollee, Steve Gunn, Jenny Hval, Marshall Ruffin, Daniel Lanois, Laraaji, Brian Blade, Alexis