Our Luce Unplugged series has been pairing art and music together since 2010. Typically highlighting the work of local musicians, we're excited to present a special pop-up performance with visiting artist Lonnie Holley at the Luce Foundation Center on Friday, February 10, from 5:30-7 p.m. Join us for an art talk and music concert!
Lonnie Holley spent most of his life in the Birmingham, Alabama area. He began carving in 1979 after his young niece and nephew died in a house fire. He used pieces of castoff, industrial mold-making "sandstone" he found near his sister's home to create tombstones for them. Holley found the objects to be powerful containers of emotion and memory, and he took up carving as a creative outlet. By the mid-1980s, he expanded his output to include paintings and sculptures made from found objects—things thrown away by others became art in his hands. Eventually, Holley used his creations to build an immersive art environment in his yard and the surrounding plots. He often sang while he worked and sometimes recorded himself on tapes to give to friends; but it wasn't until 2006 that he first recorded his music for a wider audience.
Lonnie's sculptures are extemporaneous; he responds to objects he finds and people he meets. He's seems always to be moving, shaping things, and putting thought and memory into tangible forms. His musical arrangements are the same way. The layers of sound in Holley's performances reflect lifelong experimentation, interacting, and reacting to the world around him in a way that is both fluid and highly poetic. For each performance—whether a live concert or a studio recording—he improvises the notes and lyrics on the spot, so his music morphs and evolves with every playing.
Holley once said his music and visual art are inseparable and the best way to experience both would be to walk around a museum while he sings to you. This Friday, February 10, you'll be able to do just that. Holley will perform his music with Ben Sollee and Jordon Ellis (whom you might recognize from their recent NPR Tiny Desk Concert). The concert begins at 6 p.m., but if you can leave work early, join us at 5:30 for a discussion with Lonnie and Ben led by Matt Arnett, a longtime supporter of Lonnie's music. Lonnie has an early sculpture on view in the Luce Center, and a large sculpture on view in the newly reinstalled galleries for folk and self-taught art on the first floor of the museum. So even if you don't attend the concert, you can check out his work the next time you visit!