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My Tear Becomes the Child

Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion

My Tear Becomes the Child

Artist: Lonnie Holley (Born in Birmingham, Alabama, 1950)
Culture: American
Date: 1991
Medium: Latex on panel
9 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 1 inches (24.1 x 24.1 x 2.5 cm)
Classification: Painting
Credit Line: Gift of Bruce Lineker, T'86
Label Text:In My Tear Becomes the Child, Lonnie Holley transforms a square block of wood into a weeping face with just a few brushstrokes. The painting's mournful title and muted, melancholic tones of blue and black are evidence of the emotional release that Holley achieved through his art practice. The first artworks that Holley ever made were tombstones for his two young nieces, who died in a house fire in 1979. Holley constructed his nieces' grave markers out of scraps of industrially-produced sandstone, discovering in the process that sculpting provided him with a way forward from this devastating family tragedy. Reinvigorated by the feeling that art gave him a reason to live, Holley overcame the depression that had led him to attempt suicide and continued to work primarily in sandstone, earning the nickname "the Sandman."

Holley arranged his sculptures in his yard, creating a total environment that caught the attention of a former director of the Birmingham Museum of Art, who began promoting Holley's work in the museum world. Construction at a nearby airport eventually forced Holley to leave his home and the unique yard installation that he had spent decades designing. For many artists this would be a major setback, but not for Holley. He continues to create prolifically and his substantial body of work is thought to include at least 1,500 sculptures and hundreds of works in other media. Holley's work has been displayed at the White House, and in 2003 he was the subject of an international traveling retrospective.

Object number: 2008.11.6