A Visit With Artist Stephanie Holttum


By: Doris Faltys

Just inside Stephanie Holttum’s main entry, in what was once a formal living room, is her art studio.  Her work ranges from sculpture to abstract acrylic paintings.  At a recent show she sold two paintings to people she had never met.  It means a great deal to her that this purchase was due to the quality of her art, not because they know and like her.  “I feel like I’m on the cusp!” she says.

Stephanie has ADD and that plays a large role in her daily life, her art, and approach to her art.   “As a woman, mother, daughter, wife, and artist with ADD, I have a lot of challenges and struggles which actually feed my art.  The emotional energy of memories or situations I am in play a huge role in my work.”   Some of her art has an aspect of humor to it, like her series of acrylic paintings dealing with finding her “voice,” and her sculptural series commentary on housework that includes a Golden Fairy Toilet Brush, Ice Cream Sundae Laundry Basket, Chocolate Sink, and Silver Hershey’s Kiss Plunger.    Events such as the Gulf oil spill and the Japanese tsunami have also inspired her paintings.

Before starting a Fine Arts program at the Evergreen State College Stephanie earned a Certificate of Interior Design / Architecture from Hall Institute, Pawtucket, RI, an AA Degree from Seattle Central Community College in Graphic Design and Illustration, and spent 15 years working in the Graphic Design Field.   At Evergreen she was driven and hyper focused on projects.   “I could really go into something.   I worked fast without losing quality.  I chalked it up to being an older more determined student.”   Part way through her degree program, she was diagnosed with ADD.  “I have learned that it is really helpful to have this.  It is helpful to have so many interests, but difficult to choose which to focus on.”

Stephanie received her BA in Fine Art in 2009.  As an “emerging artist,” Stephanie says she has a struggle with consistency.  How does she present herself as an artist with a mature vision when her interests are so varied?  “How do you present yourself when you don’t know what to put forward?”  With frustration she says, “I don’t want to be some artist / housewife that just does random creative things!”  Reflectively she adds, “It feels like a game sometimes.”  These thoughts led her to create a self portrait chess set, The Game of My Life.  It is created with found or collected items symbolic of pieces of Stephanie’s life for example:  glitter = ADD, dice = life is a gamble, marbles = losing her marbles, bottle nipples = babies and motherhood, birds = dreams gaining wings, wine corks = self medicating, medicine bottles = prescriptions, flowers = beauty.

She currently focuses on abstract acrylic paintings.  She starts with 5-6 canvases adding texture or color to cover the white, to get to the place where she can begin to create.  Sometimes she writes words or phrases on the canvas that have to do with the issue she is working on, or the person the painting is for.  She might add glitter or beads or draw images that have a connection to the theme for that individual painting.  The phrases and words are covered over by the time the work is finished.  One of her recent paintings was for a friend’s salon.  She wrote the words, “nurture,” “heal,” and “skin,” on the canvas because those words came into her mind when she thought of the salon. This friend has a sparkly pink personality so Stephanie added pink glitter.

“One of the best pieces of advice I got,” Stephanie says, “is,” ‘Paint what you know.’  So she thought, “I know how to be a mother.  I know how to be a housewife.  I know how it feels to have ADD.  I know how it feels to not have a voice.  I know how it feels to be called crazy.  I know how it feels to be in pain.  I know how it feels to be loved.”  She adds, “I am still an optimist.  It shows up in the bright colors I use.  I can have fun with my dark side.”

Stephanie enjoys receiving commissions for abstract portraits of people or relationships, capturing the   “energy” rather than the figured depiction.   Currently, Stephanie’s paintings can be seen at the Dockside Bistro, Olympia, WA.  Look for her at the Spring Arts Walk, Olympia, WA

Contact:  Stephanie Holttum www.stephanieholttum.com, (360) 280-4740




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