Mother and Child, 1989.
David Hollowell (American, born 1951)
Pastel on paper, 96 x 80 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Joyce Cooper in memory of Dr. Jay Cooper, 2005.73.1.

David Hollowell, a graduate of Yale University and art professor at the University of California, Davis, renders receding space within the flat plane of canvas or paper as if he were directly trained by Renaissance masters. He does not, however, merely strive for classic technique and subject matter, but creates a theatrical setting strange in its airless quality of suspended time. It is on this stage, carefully framed and ornamented, that decidedly contemporary figures interact with the iconography found in art history texts.

Hollowell’s figures, settings, activities, and ornament are often incongruous — a modern nude and child posed before the classic Madonna and Child grouping; arabesques that flatten the chamber’s depth into an illustrated page; and the central placement of a mundane chair. Yet all are seamlessly brought together by the artist’s technique. Hollowell’s masterful illusionism extends even to the trompe l'œil extension of the floor beyond the ornate frame. For this large composition, he used chalk pastel in a pointillist manner to create a delicate, powdery surface evocative of 14th- and 15th-century Italian fresco. In its grand size and execution, Mother and Child carries the gravitas of the Old Masters but remains an enigmatic and seductive mingling of past and present inspirations.

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