“All painting is an abstraction,” says Wheat Ridge artist Lori Ann Levy-Holm, who teaches for the School of Botanical Art and Illustration at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
“My interest is not necessarily driven by subject matter but driven by the abstraction of light, color, shape, form and storytelling. I love animals, I love people, I love objects, I love history, but when you approach a painting, it really does become a challenge about how to deal with this abstraction, to create this illusion in this story that I want to tell on this two-dimensional surface.
“I work in oil and gouache, the most pigmented paint there is. There’s something hardy, substantial and structural about gouache that appeals to me. It is a matte medium and was designed to be opaque.”
By comparison, she says that watercolor seems timid.
“With watercolor, you are relying on the light permeating through the pigment to hit whatever is on top of the surface of the paper, and so the eye is seeing that light pass through the pigment and then reflect back into the cornea. If you’re trying to be very accurate in rendering form and paying attention to color, it’s challenging. Watercolor is great for studies, but I’m much more at ease with gouache and oil paints.”
In addition to teaching classes at the Gardens, Levy-Holm works with Access Gallery, an inclusive nonprofit organization that provides creative opportunities for young people with disabilities.
“I give them art experiences, and I bring them to the Denver Botanic Gardens.” She’s done watercolor collaging with them and Sumi painting, when the Gardens had a Bonsai exhibition; and she’ll be doing printmaking with them this winter.
“Access Gallery asked me if I would submit a piece for their fundraiser, so I decided to do a portrait of a blues singer that’s going to be in their ‘99 Pieces of Art’ exhibition.” The fundraiser takes place Sept. 16, and features 99 pieces of art from 99 artists for $99 each. (Visit accessgallery.org for details.)
In the two-and-a-half years Levy-Holm has lived in Colorado, she’s wasted no time becoming involved in art communities. When she and her husband first moved here, she worked for the Monet exhibition at the Denver Art Museum.
“It was a way for me to connect with Denver,” she said, “and obviously, being a painter, it wasn’t a bad place for me at all.
“We were living in Olde Town Arvada, and I was taking the train into Denver. I would leave the house really early, and there were these magnificent sunrises. I was observing them through the lens of the train window, captivated by the abstraction – it did look like an abstract painting. I did a series of gouache studies on those, and I thought, ‘I really want to paint these large [on 2- by 4-foot panels], because not only are you seeing the exterior world of the sunrises, but you’re also seeing the reflection of the train’s interior.”
Levy-Holm belongs to Wheat Ridge Creatives and Wheat Ridge Creates and was involved with planning the Art in the Barn fundraiser held in June.
“We raised about $2,700 so we could give two nice scholarships to kids coming out of high school, who want to pursue art but not necessarily go to college – they might do a workshop and have money to buy supplies.”
Parameters for awarding scholarships are currently being developed, with the plan to grant the awards before the end of 2022.
One of four people in the process of establishing an art co-op in Wheat Ridge, Levy-Holm said, “We haven’t branded or done anything yet with that, but we are pursuing the framework and hoping to have one show by the end of this year.”
Levy-Holm is from Long Island, New York, went to high school in New Jersey and lived in New Hampshire. She attended Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and at their campus in Rome, Italy.
“I got my master’s in fine art and illustration at the Hartford Art School, which is part of the University of Hartford.”
She and her husband lived in California for 23 years before moving to Denver. In California, she created artwork for two Sony movies. One was “Fifty First Dates” with Adam Sandler (2004). The other was a Nancy Drew film.
“My husband went to architectural school in Montana and often passed through Denver and always really liked the town and always loved the West,” Levy-Holm said. “I was ready to move back to the East Coast, because that’s where all my family is, but he said, ‘The farthest east I will move is Denver.’ I don’t know if Denver’s home or just halfway there.
“I get a lot of joy from people. I feel like I have so many wonderful things in my life. I think that’s why I like to be a teacher, because I can share that excitement and passion. I get so much wealth from the environments I place myself in. I’ve never had a job that I didn’t like, even when I waited on tables. Everything’s an opportunity.”
Levy-Holm teaches printmaking, color theory, drawing, composition and light on form at the Denver Botanic Gardens, teaching in person through August; in the fall, she’ll teach classes both in person and online (botanicgardens.org/education/school-botanical-art-illustration). Some of her paintings are at Stylus and Crate, 6985 W. 38th Ave. Check out her website: levyholmcreates.com