David A. Holt at his work station (Photo by David A. Hoekstra)
David A. Holt is an artist that embraces the future and the past.
He is a daily reader of the Chicago Sun-Times. He is a prolific artist at Project Onward, 1200 W. 35th St. in Bridgeport, a non-profit studio and gallery dedicated to supporting the career development of artists with mental and developmental disabilities.
Every day Holt first turns to the Sun-Times horoscopes to see how his day is going to shake out. Holt, 28, is a Virgo.
He then reads the obituaries.
After his grandmother Earline Smith’s death in 2009 Holt began making memorial portraits of “important people” he read about in the Sun-Times. At the opening of last weekend’s Birdhouse Museum’s 11th annual Cardboard Show (up through Nov. 27) Bridgeport friends of mine bought several of Holt’s portraits at $20 each. Holt was a hit. He sold 18 portraits on opening night.
My friends reported that some portraits, like Bobby “Blue” Bland had my obituary glued on the back of the portrait. So did Cleotha Staples of the Staple Singers.
Charlie Trotter was a hot seller, with the words of Sun-Times scribes Mike Thomas and Mike Sneed on the back.
“I want to represent these people to the whole world,” Holt said during a conversation earlier this week at the studio. The artist, who is autistic, has made hundreds of portraits.
On a good day (for the living) he will make two a day. He uses colors and frames from the newspaper photos in his portraits. The story’s headline appears next to his portrait.
Holt is partial to fellow Virgos. Since Trotter was a Virgo the back of his portrait was affixed the Sun-Times stories and a Virgo seal.
There’s portraits and stories of Phyllis Diller, Lou Reed and actor James Gandolfini. I bought an Etta James. Holt also painted three wall size acrylic on canvas pieces of Jimi Hendrix, Kitty Wells and Don “Soul Train” Cornelius. Those sell for $350.
Project Onward artists receive 60 per cent of sales.
Mark Jackson, Project Onward Artistic Director said, “David has an original vision. His work has a naive and innocent look to it with bright and simple colors that are pure and unexpected. The content is edgy and slightly shocking since it is obituaries. He has become an excellent craftsman through the years of making the work.”
Holt said Betty Ford and Michael Jackson are his best sellers.There’s a couple!
He even surprised me with a portrait.
And I’m not dead yet.
Here’s a video of my visit, made by Rachael Zuppke of Project Onward and edited by the Sun-Times Peter Holderness:
Holt does commissions in general and will be making portraits between 11 a.m-5 p.m. Dec. 14 at the “The Grinch’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Portrait Slam” at the studio.
Second step (Courtesy of Project Onward)