Wednesday, November 3, 2010

2010 Art Attack Featured Artist - Berry Holz

Art Attack Special Featured Interview
This weekend, November 5-7, 2010 is the annual Fall open studio extravaganza in NE Mpls. Hundreds of artists will be opening their studio doors to the public with what is, essentially, their own one-person or group exhibits. It is really amazing to see so much quality art in one section in town. The event was started in the Northrup King Building but has spread throughout NE Mpls. Exhibiting as a guest artist in Karin Jacobson's studio (NKB #288) is this week's featured artist, Berry Holz.

Berry Holz

Berry Holz grew up in Norseland, outside of St. Peter, Minnesota. She studied art history & design at the University of Minnesota and has worked as an interior designer at Twin Cities architecture firms (and for IKEA for a spell) on and off ever since. Self-taught as an artist, her outside-of-architecture-interest turned to acrylic and collage a few years ago. That way of working lead to the process she really likes, & works in now - a low-tech reverse stencil method done with spray paint and layered positive-image stencils.


What are you currently working? How is this different from past projects?
I’m working on a children’s product for Magnetic Poetry – Sets consisting of fold-out background scenes on which repositionable stickers can be moved around in a playful manner. The first sets will be On the Farm, In the City, On the Moon and At the Beach. This has been really, really fun to work on. It’s different for me to get to think about all the things on a farm & make them, then get coached (by Jay Orff at Magnetic Poetry & my sister, Lorie) as to things I might not have thought of.

Having the background done, then just make these other little, more ‘everyday’ things has really made me feel like continuing to think about (and by that I mean painting) those everyday things. Working on an illustration project and getting to see the way art is turned into a mass marketed commodity, manipulated to hit a price-point is eye-opening, too.

Some commissioned pieces for a birthing center in St. Paul are also in the works. At this time last year, I didn’t feel able to do commissions; for some reason I felt really constricted & unable to produce what someone wanted right then and there. Something has shifted, and I hope no one hates me because I now can do it, but then I couldn’t.

You have described your work as a low-tech reverse stencil method of painting. Can you tell me more about what that means?

People have told me it’s more easily explained when likened to batiking or Ukranian egg making – Masks, vs stencils. First, I draw it out on the paper backing of a sticky-back material, then cut the image out. I then spray the color of the thing I want foremost in the foreground and let it dry. Next thing is the shape of the thing(s) closest to you, positioned & stuck down on the board. Paint another color; add the next closest layer of shapes. Keep on going with color/masks until the end, when all masks are peeled off. It’s confusing to talk about, but sort of simple in execution. It gets a little crazy when working on intricate things, like a human person. You have to get the eyes down first, THEN the face, if you want the face to have any eyes.

How did you develop your process of working?

Doing a collage about 5 years ago, a paper goose that I’d glued down peeled off due to way-too-wet-of-paint slopped all over it. I started bringing home scrap vinyl to cut up & peel off from my (then) job in the Communications and Interior Design department at IKEA, and spray paint was the answer to ‘how can I stop making this whole thing all wet with paint?’ Spray paint: I love what can be done with it.

What is the usual size of your work? Any murals in your past or future?

Traditionally I’ve done small-to-medium sized things, on plywood or hardboard (because the plywood we’re seeing these days sure is warpy). I’m trying some bigger things right now & if it weren’t for space constraints (I spray paint outside, so 3X7 door openings always bar doing anything truly big) I would be doing it more. Doing something way over one side, different than something way over on another side; I like it. From that you can guess that I think a mural would be cool to work on, but I feel like I’d have to move in to get it done right.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

These questions are hard. Instead of answering, I will relate to you a tale of something that ‘happened’ to me lately:

At SpotArt for a show, Ethan Arnold started talking to me about what paint I use, etc, etc, which led to a session starting with a field trip to Fifth Element to buy All Kinds of spray tips, none of whose existence I even knew about before then. [This is significant not only because of the fact that it happened, but also because spray tips Always Clog Up, and I was down to a very few per paint brand] Then we went & experimented around with all of them in the back (garage) of Intermedia Arts, where he’s working on (exterior & interior) murals.

It was intimidating – I’m a pretty tight worker who likes a certain amount of control over what I’m doing, and now I’m suddenly emptying out a paint can with the fattest-spraying tip you could imagine, without the aid of my pre-planned, sketched-up and cut with-a-fine-edge masks, in front of a painter whose work I really like and who I’d met only once before? That’s not really me, but I can tell you that I felt like a billion dollars after it happened. And even if my paintings aren’t showing it yet in the form of looking very different from how they usually look, it’s easier to get what I want out of the materials I love working with, and that’s really something. And someday they might look different.

After writing that down, here’s an answer: Yuri Arajs told me to go to shows all the time, every weekend, even if you don’t want to. This kind of thing can’t happen otherwise. It’s so easy to hide out, but if you hide out, you don’t get to see great things. Most of us are prone to hiding out.

What role does your education and training in your art?
I’m an interior designer by trade. I was an Art History minor, but never finished. I got very into the history of the design of decorative arts when I was at the U of M. Good design of useful things is beautiful. The only post-secondary art class I’ve finished was intro to art. I suppose the technique I’ve latched onto came about because I couldn’t make other methods work the way I wanted them to?

Which Minnesota artists do you enjoy?

I like the spray painters of course, & also of course.

Tia Keobounpheng,

My brothers & sister - in particular my brother Nick Pyper-Holz (, whose ability to draw anything he wants to has always made me jealous.
Nick Pyper-Holz's robot

Who doesn’t feel like a heel for forgetting about the millions of those they’re missing when answering this question? It’s pretty incredible, the amount of stuff that’s made around here that we’re lucky to get to see.

If I were to follow you around on an “art day” in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?

We’re riding our bikes: The Birchwood for breakfast, West River road between Franklin and Lake, The Swedish Institute, the period rooms at the Institute (MIA), Magers & Quinn art book section, Suite 435 (Jewelry) at Northrup King, Robot Love, Danish Teak Classics, columbarium at Westminster Presbyterian, concrete wall at the parking garage at the Walker, Jenny Holzer’s benches at the sculpture garden, particularly this one:



What was the last local exhibit you saw and what were your impressions?

Spotober at SpotArt – Scotty & Carissa are so great at putting shows together, & are so good at giving local artists a leg up.

two of my favorites – I went back & deleted them from two questions up to mention them here – are part of that show; it’s up until mid-November.

Where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?

Giant Robot, Souther Salazaar, Design Sponge, the Sartorialist, Design Rookie, Supermarket Sarah, Kinokuniya Boy, I don’t even know – you wind up linking & linking through all kinds of things.

How do you incorporate your blog, Facebook, and other social media/internet resources into your life as an artist?

Apparently by never updating anything, or paying attention to anything that goes on on the internet at all. Not the greatest in the world at social networking. I get queasy at the thought of posting anything, but I try to muscle through & keep my blog updated & post shows & the like on facebook, even though I feel like I’m bothering everyone with it. The online world of networking feels all mixed up: Personal/social/business all in one big messy mess.

My brother Nick designed my website; I really like it and don’t feel like messing with that.

Do you have any exhibits or any interesting things going on in your life or coming up in the near future?

After Art Attack, where Karin Jacobson is having me as a guest artist in her studio (Northrup King #288) , I’m working on more things for my first solo show ever, which will be in my hometown at the Arts Center of St. Peter. ( I’ve been working on things for it for a while now, but am excited to concentrate. That, and some holiday things for I Like You ( – Fun, fun, fun!

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