Sunday, November 12, 2017

Famous Fairhope Artist Talks Art/Philosophy

Fairhope, Alabama

Weekly museum Tea-talk


During the weekly 'Tea For Two' at the Museum of History, world-renowned Fairhope artist Fred Nall Hollis talked about growing up in Alabama and experiences honing his skills as a young artist in Paris.

He said he was born at midnight in Troy in 1948 on Murphy Street, "a street known for its madness disease" -- which he was pleased to have contracted and put to good use later; but moved away with his family to "the big city" of Birmingham 11 years later, and then again to Arab, Alabama.

Always regarded as the family artist, he "cut his way out of the womb with a drawing pencil" according to his  mother; his banker-father warned of professional artists "starving to death" and encouraged following in his own footsteps instead, which he did for a time while studying art at the University of Alabama.

He acknowledged he "drank a bit" too much during college, then was an "open book" after graduating and thought about teaching art for a while: painting was his "passion" but he did not realize what an "obsession" until he moved to France.

Besides having six astrological signs, Hollis said he learned later he had a multicultural heritage with three bloodlines (American Indian, English and African) running through his veins; and by using meditation and hypnosis techniques he was able to connect into his past "genetic memory" to find out about these past lifetimes and better-understand who he is today.

Hollis: "Its amazing what we all have inside us ... so much energy ... a joy to know you have all these different cultures inside."


"Being the artist, the outsider, came naturally,  but learning the passion, the work ethic, came in Paris leading the free bohemian lifestyle people read about,"  Hollis said.

He said he had to get a friend to translate when he applied to enroll at the 'Ecole des Beaux Arts' (School of Fine Arts) in Paris in 1971: "I got down on my knees and begged to be let in ... else I would have to go back to Alabama ... to take over a chain of banks."

"Luckily they let me in ... one of two A+'s out of two thousand applicants"-- but his first professor classified him "an etcher not a painter."

He said he learned art history by jogging over to the Louvre and traveling to other art museums in Europe; and two "girlfriends" (in true bohemian fashion) taught him a lot about Middle Eastern culture which became a great influence later on.

Greek and Roman mythology also became influences for his work as well: "What is a human being ... how does he fit in his skin ... in the Bible Belt."

Hollis said when some people first recognized him as a artist while sketching by the Seine River, he "felt like a famous football player in Alabama!"


When a French count asked if he would like to meet Picasso or the surrealist Dali, Hollis replied, "you can keep Picasso," so he took one of his best etchings and "trembled like a leaf" while waiting to meet him.

"The seas parted (of people) and there he was, with his big moustache, he looked at my drawing, passed it over his shoulder and said: Come to visit me in Paris ... good day!"

That one minute interview led to twice-weekly visits for three years in a Paris hotel suite, "siting at his feet like the good disciple, sketching him for 15 second poses." (Dali: "You will learn to work quickly.")

Dali always introduced Hollis to the many famous people passing through as an "actor in the movie Clockwork Orange" -- but hoping one day he would become disciplined enough to "use his talent to become an artist."

Dali "let you breathe his air," Hollis said, and taught him "what it means to be an artist ... to think out of the box, without rules" -- and that the production of an artist is paramount: "nothing else is left."

Hollis: "There are a lot of poets but very few poems ... a lot of artists but very few paintings ... respect and use your God-given talent ... if your paintings lie ... you become just a decorator."

Hollis said he subsequently worked for 35 years, 7 days a week, getting up at 3 or 4 AM -- until the disease of "old" set in; he credited much of his early success to help from friends and family, many who purchased his work.


When an audience member asked how he came to Fairhope, Hollis said he was divorced about ten years ago and "she got the French property."

Also, since his parents are deceased and he has family here (cousins), he wanted to be around them; he reiterated how "Alabama is in my blood ... never felt at home in France."

Hollis said he could afford to live "anywhere in the world" but "fell in love" with Fairhope: "I love the Bay ... some say its a mud hole ... but I love the mud hole ... my  feet sinking in it ... the smells ... pine straw, mowed lawns, salt water, even the armadillos smashed in the streets ... all of this."

"The rotten barn's wood to me is as beautiful as buildings in Venice ... a patina ... its my soul."

He said he still maintains another studio and residence in Italy.


* In answering a question about the origins of "true originality" -- he said he had studied past masters but advises his students to travel as well to places like India, to become open-minded and get a real education: "Birth, death, everything ... you see right there on the streets."

* He said he had never written much (only doodles), but is now writing a novel called 'Forty-three Chapters' based upon people he has known; but "doesn't want it published until after I am dead."

* He said that because of a medical condition that causes his hands to shake, he is having to "paint larger ... precision is in the vision now."

* When asked why his constant-companion 'Biscuit' was not with him that day, he replied he thought dogs were not allowed at the museum (they are); pets are an important substitute for those who do not have children, he added.

(Biscuit arrived shortly after.)

'Biscuit' arrives

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

His frames are better than most others' paintings.