Robin Holder

Lisa E. Farrington, Ph.D.

Holder ventured further into agitprop subject matter with a 2003 series of stenciled monoprints which she digitally transformed into glicée postcards. Entitled "Shock and Awe", the cycle comprises a collection of 4 x 6 inch postcards, each of which portrays the figure of a child with a distended stomach lying in a fetal position. Each figure's mouth is agape; its limbs are contorted; its head is elongated; and its hair stands on end. Dagger-like forms—suggestive of missiles, knives, and guns—stab at the horrified and vulnerable figures, each of which is rendered in a color that varies from card to card—gun metal gray, electric pink, orange, green, and yellow. Finally, just below each figure, Holder has inscribed the series' title in large expressionistic type.

The core sentiments of the series—shock and awe—are qualified by brief but poignant statements written at the base of each postcard in the words of a bona fide member of the U.S. military service. Holder carefully chose the statements, taken from the statements of military servicemen and women at the onset of the War in Iraq. Their remarks confirm the artist's own "shock and awe" at the callousness of U.S. military and foreign policy, as well as the horror of the very soldiers who were compelled to carry out American military actions abroad. The following are several telling excerpts from their statements:

The military industrial complex about which Eisenhower warned so long ago is alive and well and out of control.

J.V.D., United States Army, 2 years

We are stepping off the brink of reason into what could be a maelstrom of violence and suffering.... Nothing positive can emerge from this insane imperial adventure.

R.M.T., United States Airforce, 1966-1970

Our fair republic is descending into an authoritarian morass, blinded with bloodlust and misdirected thirst for revenge.

P.B., United States Airforce, 1993-1998

My son was just shipped to Kuwait as a member of a marine weapons company.... I want him to return ... safely ... to help him to prepare for a productive life rather than being a participant in a slaughter which will be a scar on his mind for life.

J.G.P., United States Navy, 1951-1955

I feel mortified that I must put my life on the line to support this unnecessary and un-American war.

E.O.B. United States Army Reserve, 6 years

The voices of these soldiers echo those of so many Americans who were disenchanted and frustrated by government leadership intent on solving global disputes with violence.

Most recently, Holder has begun work on a "Musicians" cycle to celebrate the revivification of New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina disaster. So often preferring to center her compositions on a single figure, Holder shifts gears with the "Musicians" prints, which feature multiple figure groupings. Animated musicians and a vivid palette mark the series and fittingly celebrate the excitement of the Big Easy. Attending scrupulously to the design of both positive and negative spaces, Holder fits the diverse components of each print together like a jigsaw puzzle. Forms are further enhanced by intricate color subtleties, tonal variations, and variegated textures, which Holder achieved by way of the meticulous assessment of ink weights, drying times, layering properties, and by running the individual prints through the press as many as thirty times each.

Despite its proliferation in her oeuvre, printmaking does not, however, represent the limit of Holder's media capabilities. Public commissions have also occupied the artist's time, including site-specific projects sponsored by The New York School Construction Authority, Public Art for Public Schools, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art program, the State of Connecticut Arts Commission, New Jersey Transit and the Metropolitan Transit Authority. She also devoted a portion of her time on various panels and presented her work to such institutions as the Museum of Natural History, the Cooper Hewitt, Manhattan Community College, and the New York State Council for the Arts. With regard to the latter, in 1993 Holder was commissioned to bedeck a 6,500 square foot elementary school and community center plaza, titled Camino de Animales (Path of Animals). Installed at Public School 5 on Tenth Avenue in New York City, the undertaking involved the design and manufacture of eighty-two pre-cast pigmented concrete stones and ceramic tile inlays; two acid etched concrete benches and a painted concrete border for the plaza. Holder's design includes rectangular walkways (reminiscent of Bauhaus design) edged in cobalt blue concrete. Also incorporated into the plaza are brightly colored, large-scale inlays of dragonflies, birds, leopards, and other animals. From conception to installation, Camino de Animales could not be more ideally suited to its audience and setting.