Nature/Nurture: Norman Holen & Alisa Holen

Emily Galusha Gallery

September 22 – November 5
Soft Opening September 22
Opening reception: Friday, October 20, 6 – 8 pm

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is an oft-used statement referencing children who follow in their parent’s footsteps. In the case of Norman and Alisa Holen, it may be more accurate to say, “Clay stays under the fingernails.”

Clay was part of daily life at the Holen home. Norman’s home studio was never idle. He was good-natured about having young visitors interrupt and he encouraged participation. Alisa began working with clay at a young age, embracing the malleability of the material, and the way that her father could bring it to life. Beyond Norman’s work with clay, the material was also a part of family dinners. The pottery of Warren MacKenzie, Chuck Halling, Peter Leach, and others were the serving dishes on the table. The positive influence of clay in the Holen home was undeniable. Norman’s sculptural works are displayed throughout the home with curatorial acumen. When Alisa found her way with functional ceramics, the influence of growing up surrounded by Norman’s sculptural objects clearly made an impact. Despite her focus on function, her works maintain a sculptural presence. Nature/Nurture will celebrate and explore the talents of this father-daughter family of makers.

Norman Holen was a professor of art for 40 years, and much of this time was spent at Augsburg College in South Minneapolis. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and his MFA in ceramics from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Holen’s drawings, pots, and sculpture have found themselves in numerous exhibitions across the country, including the Kresge Gallery, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. A true Renaissance man, he writes poetry and plays classical music on his guitar, in addition to his visual arts pursuits.

Holen’s contributions to this exhibition include recent works from his Dream series, which include “elongated and simplified and freely blended figures with animals,” which allow him “to suspend my normal view of reality and to adopt the improbable randomness of dreams.”

Alisa Holen pursued an educational path similar to her father’s, even attending the University of Iowa, where she received both her MA and MFA in ceramics. Her teaching path has led her to a number of institutions, including University of Iowa; University of Nebraska, Omaha; Augustana College; University of WI–La Crosse, and Mississippi University for Women in Columbus. She is currently a tenure track assistant professor of art at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, Indiana. Holen’s educational travels enabled the development of new relationships and encounters, each of which serve as inspiration—to Holen and to her ceramic work. Her portfolio explores both formal and metaphorical relationships, “often staging forms in postures of dependency, elevation, support, aggression, or comfort. Swelling volumes are often perched on tiny bases, evoking nuances of vulnerability and tension. Cups are precariously perched on forms to illustrate the assailable nature of relationships.”