Interview conducted by Teodelina Martelli (Pomona).
A visual artist with work featured internationally in paper, bookarts, and other exhibitions, Kyle Holland earned his BFA in Fine Arts with a concentration in Printmaking from the Memphis College of Art and his MFA in Book Arts and Printmaking from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. He is preoccupied with the concepts of masculinity and perception in the South he calls home; his work, comprised purposefully from materials of the hunting scene (such as hides and branches) uses its “characters” – deer, raptors, objects – as metaphor for ideal masculinity and the marginalization of anything “other.” The mute starkness of Holland’s work belies a depth of emotion and labor towards societal change. www.kyleaholland.com
Why did you choose printmaking?
One of the reasons I frequently use printmaking processes in my work is due to their versatility and the ease with which they can be incorporated in artist’s books, sculptures, and installations in addition to stand-alone prints. This flexible quality is important to my practice since the concepts and content of each of my pieces determines the materials, processes, and form that they will take which is sometimes out of the bounds of traditional printmaking. The various processes within the discipline of printmaking can also accommodate a wide range of styles of images and text, making it one of the most efficient means of producing my work which often includes photographic images, graphic images, and text.
Certain printmaking processes have inherent characteristics and I believe that they supplement my pieces both formally and conceptually. An example of this is the pressure prints in Birds of Prey which add depth and atmosphere to the images in the book. Light appears to emanate from behind the trees by virtue of the printing process which is a quality that I embraced since the book depicts a journey through my psychological landscape.
For Hunted, an artist’s book inspired by sensory deprivation and fear of the unknown that is experienced by those who brave the wilderness at night, I chose to use blowouts to produce the majority of the images in the book which tied into the subject matter in several ways. Blowout is a papermaking process that involves the use of a stencil or water-resistant object to cover up and protect portions of handmade sheets of paper while the areas that are not covered are blown away with a hose. Although this is not a printmaking process, fundamental aspects of printmaking can be applied to papermaking processes such as blowout including the use of a repeatable matrix, registration, and editioning. The process of making the blowouts resulted in dark, hazy forms reminiscent of what we see when our vision is impaired. These sheets were couched on top of overbeaten abaca and because of this, there is an auditory quality that evokes the sound of leaves crackling underfoot as the pages of the book are turned.
Where did the idea of a monument come from for you (as featured in your dreamlike 2018 Southern Boyhood), and how does it relate to the hunt and your ideas on male perception?
Prior to making Southern Boyhood, I read a short story written by Paul Willems called “The Cathedral of Mist.” The narrator of the story introduces architect V. who renounced the use of stone in favor of mist as a building material which is used to construct a cathedral in the Forest of Houthulst. The cathedral serves as the site of a spiritual experience for the narrator’s father and a small group of his friends.
The aspect of the story that interested me most was Willems’ personification of stone with qualities that can be perceived as masculine such as strength, stubbornness, and the ability to endure. Around the same time, I saw an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois’ work at MoMA, Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait, and her use of idiosyncratic architectural motifs helped me hone my own use of architectural elements.
The masculine qualities of columns are subverted in Southern Boyhood in which they appear decorative, rather than functional, and are rendered useless as a building material. For me, the columns are a metaphorical self-portrait, representing myself in the liminal stage between adolescence and manhood.
I feel a sense of unease around the raptors that the buck appears to show in works such as your 2016 Birds of Prey. What does a bird of prey represent to you, and how did it come to take that meaning?
To me, birds of prey represent hegemonic masculinity or an “ideal,” dominant man to which women and other masculinities are subordinate. This hierarchical social structure was pervasive in the Southern region where I grew up.
My experience growing up in the South led me to believe that I must possess a certain set of qualities to be considered a man in the context of Southern masculine culture. It seems that a man should be risk-taking and effortlessly exhibit strength, pride, self-confidence, and superiority. Judgment is the consequence of opposing this prototype in favor of one’s individuality and I feel that my physical appearance and how I conduct myself prevent me from successfully assimilating into Southern society. It became apparent to me that men are often treated as an “other” if they do not embody the persona that is essential to be regarded as a man.
My visual language incorporates the physical surroundings that I grew up in and references the recreation of hunting, at times positing the viewer as the Southern male archetype and at other times as an observer. Because it is so common to see vultures circling around their prey in rural parts of the South, I began to associate them with the feeling of being looked down on by other men.
How did you create that eerie appearance of mist on the scene, as shown on the cover of your bound book Province of Men?
The misty quality in Province of Men was primarily created from the translucent paper that the book was printed on. Two of the layers in the book, the black-and-white photograph of the forest and the blue flat, were printed on the back of the translucent paper. Because of this, the opacity of the photograph appears to be significantly reduced and light is able to pass through the pages of the book which both contribute to the misty quality.
The detail of the trees especially in Astray is boggling. Is that a result of vinyl work? Similarly, how did you manage the level of detail on the wary deer?
My work often incorporates photographic imagery as well as graphic images and text. The detail of the trees in Astray and in the deer that appears in several of my pieces is achieved through inkjet printing.
Inkjet printing is not commonly considered to be part of or accepted in the canon of printmaking because it does not involve an analog plate and press transfer technique and the prints are produced outside of a printmaking workshop paradigm. However, I argue that inkjet printing falls within the methodology of printmaking in the sense that virtual data is developed, manipulated, and translated from a digital space to a tangible surface, much like how a traditional print evolves from an idea to ink on paper.
Traditional printmaking processes are regularly used in tandem with inkjet printing in my work. Astray, for example, was produced using inkjet and letterpress printing on pigmented, handmade paper. The deer stand, which was carved from a woodblock, as well as the text are the elements that were letterpress printed. The processes that I use to make each of my pieces differ and are contingent on the content of each individual piece.
Do you see in yourself the buck, or a bird from your Birds of Prey or other series? And if you were the former, would you rather ultimately have antlers or not? For even they who bring others to agree on the cruelty of the antler contest (as referenced in Attempt After Attempt) will receive antlers of their own, in a sense. (tell me if I assume too much.)
I identify as the buck which is appropriated from taxidermy catalogs. The forms act as vulnerable protagonists in my work, appearing skinless and without antlers. The figurative prospect of having antlers is enticing as a means to satisfy socially imposed expectations in regard to manhood, however I feel that I would need them less for my own internalized sense of masculinity.
Has your work changed in the face of the pandemic? Has hunting been affected – or expectations for men in the South with regards to taking care of themselves and their family at this time?
I have not started on any new work since being in quarantine, however I have been working on several editions that were already in progress and their completion has been hindered by the pandemic. I have been working out of a bedroom in my home and consequently the speed at which I work is significantly slower.
While I do not hunt myself, my recent work involves research that takes place in the confines of hunting forums. COVID-19 and its effect on hunting is a topic that is being discussed on the forums that I frequent. The general sentiment that I have gathered is that hunters believe that hunting seasons will be affected by the pandemic for the next couple of years. This may be due to financial concerns or reluctance to make plans far enough in advance on the part of hunters, continuing travel restrictions, and/or potential increases or decreases in animal populations. The majority of hunters who participate in these virtual communities are stating that more people are hunting during the pandemic and some are noticing an increased interest in hunting while others are stating that participation has decreased.
I feel that I do not have a widespread understanding of expectations of men in the South in these circumstances. However, I have noticed that men who are being called back to work have a heightened concern for themselves and/or their immediate family who have medical conditions that put them at an increased risk of being severely affected by coronavirus. This has caused some to seriously consider and sometimes decline offers to be rehired.
Your 2013 collaboration with Elizabeth Sheehan, October, appears very different from your other publicized work. Is there anything you’d like to share about its significance to you?
October was produced for the 2012 SP Weather Report which was published by SP Weather Station. The SP Weather Reports are collated portfolios that were published annually between 2008–2013. Each portfolio includes work from twelve artists and/or collaborative groups (one for each month of the year) who were provided with data collected from the SPWS rooftop for their corresponding month. The participants in each portfolio then interpreted the data that was given to them and created an editioned artwork that “reported” on the data.
For our contribution, Elizabeth and I received storm-riddled weather data that was collected in October 2012 which culminated in Hurricane Sandy. We both share a mutual interest in storms and wanted to make a piece about some of the eerie warnings that can be a sign of imminent disaster such as unusual colors in the sky or peculiar behavior in animals. While October is visually unrelated to much of my other work, my interest in storms stems from the 1996 film Twister which I have analyzed for its depiction of gender in cinema.