Monday, January 27, 2020
‘Wild Kingdom’ Van Gogh Debuts New Works for Wood River Valley Studio Tour
Lisa Holley’s “Paternal Colony” honors the male Emperor Penguin, who takes care of the egg while the females return to the ocean for two to three months to eat.
Thursday, August 15, 2019


Lisa Holley claims to be an interesting conversationalist at cocktail parties—provided you have the stomach for what she has to share.

Holley, who will be one of 40 featured artist on Saturday and Sunday’s Wood River ValleyStudio Tour, has long painted art depicting what animals and birds eat. Her latest subject involves penguins—and the eight-limbed octopus.

“A friend went to Antarctica and I said, ‘I live where we have a ton of snow during winter so I have no need to go there.’ But I noticed that everyone who goes there or the Galapagos loves penguins. So, I set about painting them,” said Holley.

Holley dove into a treasure trove of information—how penguins dive 1,800 feet and hold their breath for 28 minutes. And how they catch fish that most people don’t know about.

One of their foodstuffs is ice fish, which don’t have blood. They love microscopic zoo plankton, and they love plow fish, which are two to four feet long in comparison.

They also eat octopus.

“I learned that there are 300 types of octopus and that the components they use to sting other creatures with cause a numbing effect. So, that may be useful medically,” Holley recounted. “They’re also one of the most intelligent fish around. They’ve even used their tentacles to open a cage.”

Holley got her start as a “Wild Kingdom” Van Gogh when Ketchum’s Wood River Gallery staged a competition asking artists to draw their favorite pet as a slack reliever in 1982.

“I’m a botanical artist? What can I do?” she asked.

But, as she thought, she remembered Guiseppe Arcimboldo, a 16th century court artist in the Hapsburg Dynasty who composed portraits of people according to their occupation. He filled the fishmonger, for instance, with oysters, clams and lobster.

Following his lead Holley decided to do a spoof on Eastern Idaho farmers who were clubbing an overabundance of jackrabbits to death at Mud Lake.

She filled the jackrabbit in her picture with things rabbits eat and named it “Idaho Club Sandwich.” It was voted the favorite at the gallery, winning her a box of colored pencils. And her “You Are What You Eat” series was born as she filled animals with bugs and bamboo shoots and mice and caddis

Wood River Gallery exhibited her art, then Kneeland Gallery, then Anne Reed Gallery. She painted a mural of a sabertooth tiger filled with a dromedary camel, sloth, bison and bear for the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. And she created a birds of prey exhibit for the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg, Pa., to go with its IMAX film of birds of prey.

Today she displays her work at Towne and Parke Fine Jewelry at Sun Valley Resort and at Vintage Restaurant in Ketchum. She sells most of her work online.

Holley will have a special—framed prints for $75—as part of the studio tour, in addition to her framed originals. And she should have a new portrait finished by then—that of a doe filled with daylilies, roses and other foodstuffs from our gardens.

“The studio tour has grown tremendously year by year,” she said. And my audience has grown since I moved my studio from Elkhorn to Ketchum’s light industrial area. Two years I got 40 people and last year I got 200. They put the dot in the wrong place on the map for the studio tour, but I think people will still be able to find me.”

The tour draws a lot of vacationers, as well as second home owners.

“They don’t know you can call an artist and visit with them. Or they feel obligated,” Holley said. “The Studio Tour relieves that obligation. And every studio is entirely different.”


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