Lonnie Holley

For four decades, Lonnie Holley has devoted his life to the practice of improvisational creativity. His art and music, born out of struggle, hardship, but perhaps more importantly, out of furious curiosity and biological necessity, has manifested itself in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and more recently performance and recordings. The layers of sound are the result of years of evolving experimentation; improvised on the spot, Holley's sounds and lyrics morph with every event, concert, and recording.

Lonnie Holley was born on February 10, 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama. From the age of five, Holley worked various jobs: picking up trash at a drive-in movie theatre, washing dishes, and cooking. He lived in a whiskey house, on the state fairgrounds, and in several foster homes. His early life was chaotic and Holley was never afforded the pleasure of a real childhood.

Since 1979, he has worked prolifically as a visual artist, constructing sculptures from found materials in the oldest tradition of African American sculpture. Objects, already imbued with cultural and artistic metaphor, are combined into narrative sculptures that commemorate places, people, and events. His work is in collections of major museums throughout the country-- including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Folk Art Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Museum of Art, and many others-- on permanent display in the United Nations, and has been displayed in the White House Rose Garden.

In 2006, Matt Arnett, whose father has collected Holley’s art since the 1980s, organized the first professional recordings of Holley’s music. In 2010, Arnett set up a performance by Holley at his home; Dust-to-Digital label-head Lance Ledbetter was in attendance, and signed Holley to his label. The result was the album Just Before Music. In 2013 Holley’s second album, Keeping A Record of It, was released. Holley began touring as a musician in 2013; he has been joined on stage or in the studio by a variety of musicians from a wide range of genres.