Holly Parker was raised amidst race car drivers, garages, and oil pans. Even as a child she loved the form-and-function artistry that went into engineering a fast car, from its combustion engine to the sleek, sculptural surface of its exterior. As a teenager, she found immense solace and independence in the act of going on long drives alone while listening to her favorite songs and letting her thoughts flow as the landscape went by. She appreciated the freedom that accompanied the wide-open American roads. And she enjoyed the sense of self-sufficiency achieved by changing her own oil in the engine of her vintage Volkswagen Beetle.
In 2004, Holly embarked on a journey to study art in Italy. She could already feel the weight of climate change pressing down on the world at this point, even though the mainstream of society seemingly awoke each day without giving it much of a bother. It was impossible for her to ignore the evidence as she tried to garden through the droughts and wildfires of Colorado and observed increasingly extreme weather patterns around the world. As she absorbed information and found great influence in books such as The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight or documentaries like Who Killed the Electric Car, she attempted to make each day of her life more and more earth-friendly.
Once she entered her graduate studies, this overarching concern for the planet transformed into a mission to invent artwork that fostered sincere dialogue about humanity’s relationship to the landscape. Living in a country with such profound political partisanship, a primary objective of this series was to attempt to make work that spoke to all humans and inspire thoughtful solidarity on how much we rely on the planet’s precious and impermanent resources. This thought process led her to realize that the medium of the artwork she created would have to serve the ideas contained within them, and that it had to be something to which all could relate.
In addition to working in her studio, Holly began working as a curator in 1999. From 2004 and later, the exhibitions she assembled likewise became mission-driven: featuring artists who shared her concern for the environment and who were dedicated to creating outstanding images to communicate powerfully influential anthropogenic ideas. She hosted artists such as James Balog, Edward Burtynsky, and Arturo Vittori. Her exhibitions opened eye’s and minds, urging her community to take actions beyond “reduce, reuse, recycle.”
Holly Parker’s artwork made from the active ingredients of used-motor-oil and dirt are the first of their kind and remain unparalleled in their ability to combine medium and message.
Artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They keel over like canaries in coal mines filled with poison gas, long before more robust types realize that any danger is there.
--- Kurt Vonnegut (1974)